California grid operator envisions 50% renewables

The ISO’s Board of Directors last week approved a strategic plan detailing how the state’s transmission system operator can manage challenges for the energy industry as California adds more renewable energy to its grid.

“This strategic vision outlines how the ISO will respond to a rapidly changing electric system,” said Steve Berberich, ISO president and chief executive. “We will keep our focus on reducing carbon, lowering costs and working collaboratively for everyone’s benefit, while maintaining a reliable grid.”

The vision statement comes after Gov. Jerry Brown in January called for utilities to boost their renewable energy procurements to 50% of retail electric sales in the next 15 years from approximately 23% in 2013. State legislators Das Williams and Anthony Rendon, both Democrats, in late February introduced Assembly Bill 645 to implement this plan. The bill currently is being considered in energy and utility committees.

Richard Maullin, chair of the ISO board, said the grid operator’s strategy document was needed because of the rapid pace of change in the energy industry and the issues stemming from rising amounts of renewable energy, including the growing occurrence of overgeneration on California’s grid.

“The strategic vision summarizes the opportunities and challenges facing California and the West in the ongoing transition to a low-carbon electric grid, through the integration of more renewable energy generation into our power mix,” said Maullin.

According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, California added 3,549 MW of PV in 2014, following 2,621 MW in 2013. The Golden State is the first U.S. state to rely on solar energy for more than 5% of its power.

The ISO’s current transmission queue for solar projects seeking to connect to the wholesale power grid indicates approximately 930 MW of projects are seeking connection in 2015 and 5,626 MW in 2016. The ISO’s queue does not reflect distributed solar projects that deliver on-site energy.