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PG&E Launches Multi-Customer Microgrid Program

April 15, 2021
Initiative aims to improve local energy resilience, prioritize disadvantaged areas and critical facilities.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) recently launched its Community Microgrid Enablement Program (CMEP) to help communities identify, design and build permanent, multi-customer microgrids serving critical facilities and vulnerable customer groups.

A microgrid is an electric system that can operate independently from the central energy grid.

Through this new program approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), PG&E will provide technical and financial support on a prioritized basis for qualifying projects in areas with the greatest energy resilience needs. This includes dedicated funding to help meet the resilience needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

"We know how much our customers need reliable energy. Community microgrids will play a key role in PG&E's ongoing efforts to harden our electrical system and enhance local grid resilience for customers throughout our service area in Northern and Central California. We look forward to partnering with our customers, especially those in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, to build customized resilience solutions that address local electric reliability needs for the long term," said Fong Wan, PG&E's Senior Vice President, Energy Policy and Procurement.

In 2020, PG&E consulted with local governments, agencies and communities interested in developing microgrid projects and worked to refine the eligibility criteria and other program requirements. The CPUC approved the final program details on March 18, 2021.

Prioritized projects will be those that serve disadvantaged communities, critical facilities such as hospitals, and areas with a higher likelihood of Public Safety Power Shutoffs or other significant power outage events, as well as projects with higher levels of renewable energy.

What's a Community Microgrid?

A community microgrid is a group of customers and Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) — such as solar generation and battery energy storage systems — within clearly defined electrical boundaries with the ability to disconnect from and reconnect to the grid.

These microgrids are typically designed to serve portions of communities that include community resources, such as hospitals, police and fire stations, gas stations and grocery stores.

Each community microgrid is uniquely designed by the community to address its specific goals and needs. A range of factors determine the size of the microgrid, what community services are served and what elements are included in the design.

North Coast Project Underway

The first project under the program is the Redwood Coast Airport Renewable Energy Microgrid, a collaboration among PG&E, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University, Humboldt County, and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, among others.

This front-of-the-meter, multi-customer microgrid featuring solar power generation paired with battery energy storage is under construction and on schedule for full operation in December 2021.

The Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid will provide renewable energy for 18 customer meters, including the Arcata-Eureka Airport and a U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, and serve as a lifeline for Humboldt County in a natural disaster or other emergencies. The microgrid will be capable of disconnecting from the broader grid (island mode) and operating as an independent, PG&E-operated grid segment during a planned or unplanned power outage.

PG&E has already heard from additional communities interested in deploying multi-customer microgrids through CMEP, including the Yurok Tribe, located along the Klamath River on California's North Coast. PG&E supports the Yurok Tribe's goal of building a multi-customer microgrid in Tulley Creek.

"The Tulley Creek microgrid is a key piece of infrastructure that will dramatically increase the energy resilience and disaster preparedness of the Yurok Tribe on the upper half of the Reservation. We appreciate the critical technical support and capital that CMEP offers to help make this project a reality," said Michael Gerace, Planning Director for the Yurok Tribe Department of Planning and Community Development.

For more information about CMEP, visit pge.com/cmep

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