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The Wild Wild West

Feb. 15, 2017
To find out firsthand how California and the nation are moving forward to embrace DERs and meet renewable targets, you’ll want to attend the “Renewables Rush” on April 5 in San Francisco.

California has taken the lead in setting energy direction. But this is nothing new. In 2009, 12% of California’s electricity came from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and small hydro. Add in large hydro, and you get another 9%. Now California has set a renewable target of 50% by 2030. That’s an intimidating target. The table below from the California Public Utility Commission website that provides a little history.

These targets require us to totally re-envision what it means to be a distribution utility, and I am confident that these targets are attainable. For one thing, we have time on our side. Load growth predictions are only on the order of 0.5% per year, which gives us some wiggle room. The big three California utilities — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E); Edison Electric, parent company of Southern California Edison (SCE); and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) — are all looking to avail themselves of distributed energy resources (DERs) to be able to meet capacity requirements in urban areas. Here is what we have going for us:

  • The cost of solar has been and will continue to drop.
  • The cost of battery storage is dropping as well.
  • We are developing sophisticated DER management systems to enable us to manage the network at more granular levels.
  • Innovative companies such as Varentec and Smart Wires are developing devices we can place on our delivery system to address instability issues and control power flows.
  • California regulators and the big state utilities are now playing nice, with all parties realizing they must work together to avoid future blackouts.

With SCE’s San Onofre Nuclear plant already closed and with PG&E’s Diablo Canyon’s units scheduled for closure in 2024 and 2025, we are discovering it is easier to move forward when there is no reverse. T&D World recently hosted a Burns & McDonnell-sponsored webinar that discussed where this SCE is going. President Ron Nichols and Director Erik Takayesu shared how SCE is taking steps to ensure a clean energy economy. SCE’s vision is to enable the plug-and-play grid to enhance system reliability, support customer choice and use clean energy technologies to help California meet its energy goals. SCE says drastic increases in rooftop solar, storage and electric vehicles will be key. This archived webinar is available at

To find out firsthand how California and the nation are moving forward to embrace DERs and meet renewable targets, you’ll want to attend the “Renewables Rush” on April 5 in San Francisco. My partner Marty Rosenberg with Energy Times has put together an event that mixes business, technology and regulatory perspectives to give you an understanding of how the energy game is going to be played going forward.

California is serving as the incubator for many of the clean energy technologies that will help transform our economy from renewable energy to electric vehicles to energy storage.

On April 5, California Public Utility Commissioner David Hochschild will be providing insights into the aggressive targets set in California. You also will hear what steps PG&E, SDG&E and Edison International are taking to meet a cleaner, greener future. And in an era where consumers become prosumers, you will hear from George Waidelich, the director of energy operations for Albertsons Companies. As a major purchaser of electricity for grocery stores, Albertsons and its industrial and commercial peers are shifting our understanding of what it means to be a customer and what it means to be a provider.

This a thrilling time for us to be active in the energy game. So much of what we took for granted is being turned on its head. We are replacing “scale” with “micro” in the form of rooftop solar and storage. We are replacing command and control with flows managed at the feeder and customer level. Our energy future is in flux. Let’s step up and have our voices heard and do our part to shape the energy industry of tomorrow.

For information on the “Renewables Rush” event, visit

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