California Nears Homestretch on Roadmap to Commercialize Microgrids

Oct. 6, 2017
California is nearing the homestretch on a roadmap now being circulated for comment that aims to help commercialize microgrids.

California is nearing the homestretch on a roadmap now being circulated for comment that aims to help commercialize microgrids.

Comments are due by October 27 on the draft document, created with oversight from the California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission and California Independent System Operator.

In addition, the CEC has extended the deadline to submit proposals for a related $44.7 million microgrid solicitation. Bids are now due October 31, instead of October 20.

By incentivizing microgrid projects that are replicable and standardized, California hopes to drive down costs.

California stakeholders have been meeting since May 2016 to design the roadmap and accelerate growth in California’s microgrid industry. The state already has some of the most sophisticated microgrids in the nation.

While the U.S. Northeast has been heavily leveraging the resiliency and reliability benefits of microgrids, California is honing in on the efficient and green aspects of the systems. To that end, working group chose to focus its own state rather than attempting recommendations to commercialize microgrids nationally. The report notes that microgrids elsewhere may include diesel generators, something California wants to avoid.

California sees microgrid development as a way not only to improve electric service to customers, but also to help the state meet various policy goals. In particular, the draft report notes that microgrids can reduce greenhouse gases and increase use of distributed energy, energy efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicles.

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How to better commercialize microgrids

The report recommends several possible actions to help commercialize microgrids more quickly. These range from educational and research efforts to codifying standards, developing strategies to open wholesale and retail markets to microgrids, and examining if microgrids need separate utility tariffs.

Key areas the roadmap looks at are:

  • How Microgrids Operate and their Value
  • Improving the Electric Grid with Microgrids
  • How Microgrids Can Play a Role in Implementing the Policy Goals
  • How Microgrids Can Support California’s Policies to Permit High Concentration of DERs on the Grid
  • How Microgrids Operate in the Current California Regulatory Framework
  • Microgrid Technical Challenges

Stumbling blocks must still be overcome for California to leverage the full value of microgrids, among them the need for open architecture and standards, says the report.

“To support interoperability of components, systems must support standard interfaces and communications. The microgrid standards should also enable developers to fashion value propositions that reduce cost and offer flexibility to the end user,” the draft report said. “Finally, the standards should allow the broadest flexibility possible to the existing utilities to incorporate microgrids into their operations while expanding the ability of the customer to access options and appropriate price points for the level and type of service received.”

The draft is available on the CEC website.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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