I'm proud to have been a member of the National Academies of Sciences Committee that recently issued this report, Enhancing the Resilience of the Nation's Electricity System. It represents the culmination of a year of work by a lot of smart and dedicated people and it was an honor to work with them all.
Despite the remaining political rhetoric, the energy transition is well underway and our nation is moving away from powering its systems with fossil-fueled power plants.
This transitioning involves retiring gigawatts and gigawatts of coal plants. Each individual 500, 1000 or more MW plant is a massive heavy industrial operation usually with significant number of employees to manage it. Each plant provides a significant number of megawatt hours, which may or may need to be replaced after retirement. In addition to energy, many coal plants have taken their place as the default provider of grid services, or at least insurer of grid stability, where they live. These technical issues need to be managed.
In addition, there is a reality of community and individual impacts that come with the loss of a major industrial coal plant, especially in rural areas in which the plant has served as a key or even sole economic driver for the area.
This week, Amanda Ormond, Managing Director of Western Grid Group, joins me to discuss the technical and some of the people issues related to coal plant retirements. We focus specifically on the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona, which provides a case study with several similarities and unique attributes as compared to retiring coal plants across the West.
Transmission and Distribution System Coordination to Support DERs
What happens when a rooftop solar aggregator can’t deliver its power as committed to the wholesale market because it’s distribution utility’s line is out? What about when demand response customers participate in both utility demand management programs and wholesale markets and both make calls on their megawatts? As the amount of distributed energy resources or "DERs" on the distribution system grows, so does their impact on and interaction with the transmission system.
With help from the organization More than Smart, the California Independent System Operator, the state’s investor owned utilities, and competitive DER providers are leading the way in addressing operational issues that arise as DERs interconnected to the distribution system are engaging as resources with distribution utilities and wholesale grid operators.
This week, More than Smart’s Matthew Tisdale joins me to consider recommendations in the organization’s new report on operational issues that need to be addressed between the transmission and distribution systems to reliably facilitate a high DER future, and a framework for addressing those issues. The report’s working group (including CAISO, as well as PG&E, SCE and SDG&E) focus on communication and coordination as near-term steps to support a reliable and highly distributed electricity grid.
From this Episode:
My 2016 Small Power, Big Grid blog series from my NRDC days…
Western Markets and Regionalization: Why Should We Care?
The transmission system for the Western 1/3 of the United States is divided up into over thirty different electrical fiefdoms known as balancing areas. Each one controls planning, ensures reliability and coordinates operations for their own small area. California is the exception to this rule, as it has developed a state-wide "regional grid." In addition to cost inefficiencies related to the lack of coordination across the smaller regions, a new problem has emerged. California's abundance of carbon-free and zero fuel-cost solar, along with wind in Wyoming and other states, is getting curtailed or "dumped" because there is over supply within their regions or balancing area. At the same time, customers in surrounding states are losing out on the bill savings that could come with access to these cheap resources. What's a state to do?
On what will be the first of several conversations on the issue of western market development, renewables integration, and coal power plant retirement, Jennifer Gardner from Western Resource Advocates joins to discuss the potential for utilities in the West to join regional grid operators. Specifically, she considers the California Independent System Operator and the Southwest Power Pool.
(And once again, next week will start a new era in audio sound production, so stay tuned!)
From this episode:
More on the duck curve:
Regulatory Assistance Project, Teaching the Duck to Fly
Wholesale Markets and State Policies: What’s all the Fuss?
Today’s episode features Ari Peskoe, Senior Fellow in Electricity at Harvard Law School’s Environmental Policy Initiative and Miles Farmer, Clean Energy Attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council. They explain the intricate details of the interactions between wholesale energy markets and state energy policies like renewable portfolio standards and zero carbon credits for nuclear power plants. The audio production is still a bit scrappy, but if you make it through this one you can wear your energy nerd badge proudly!
From this episode:
Miles’ blog on wholesale market issues, State Policies and Electricity Markets: Harmony or Conflict?
I’m happy to introduce my new podcast Grid Geeks (itunes or soundcloud), where I’ll be talking to energy policy thinkers about those esoteric electricity rules that will shape our energy future. My first guest is none other than John Moore (@cleanferc), director of the Sustainable FERC Project at Natural Resources Defense Council. He joins me to talk about renewables and reliability. And Rick Perry’s report. Because if you’re not talking about Rick Perry’s report, then what are you talking about, exactly!?
PS - Thanks to Adam Rubenstein (@adamrubenstein) for the great music (podcasts jingles aren’t exactly his sweet spot so I extra appreciate it). And, bear with me on the audio production. Learning as I go!
As mentioned on this episode:
-John Moore’s relevant blogs:
I'm excited to introduce goodgrid, my new consulting firm and the culmination of two decades' experience in the clean energy sector.
The changes taking place across this sector in recent years are monumental. Wind and solar power are cost-competitive, dispatchable and reliable. Customers are empowered, and, increasingly, interested in energy management. Communities and companies not only want to buy their own clean energy but also sell it. Even the outdated laws and regulations that have held back progress are joining the party. The financial and environmental opportunity is massive and there's no better time to hang my shingle in pursuit of changing the trajectory of our energy systems. I look forward to working with you!Read More