Electric Utilities Prepare for a Grid Dominated by Renewable Energy

A growing number of electric industry leaders agree that it’s only a matter of time before renewable energy resources dominate their grid systems.

In California, it’s already a reality, said Steve Berberich, president and CEO of California Independent System Operator Corporation. On a typical day, CAISO will pull about 30,000 megawatts of energy production, with around 6,500 megawatts from solar, 5,000 megawatts from wind and another 5,000 from geothermal and other services on the system. In addition, California’s grid system has roughly 4,000 megawatts of behind-the-meter solar, which is growing at a rate of about 70 megawatts per month.

In any given day, California gets more than 30 percent its electricity from renewable energy. On many days that amount climbs to 40 percent, and on some days renewables reach 50 percent, said Berberich.

The industry shift to renewable energy-driven system was reflected at the EEI convention. SunPower was a top sponsor, several panels were held on renewables and complimentary grid edge resources, and posters showcasing industry statistics on solar and other services were set up throughout the venue.

“Curtailing is throwing away zero-carbon, zero-marginal-cost power and that becomes both an economic and political problem,” he said. Political pressures could “turn this a little bit,” he added, alluding to a possible shift in public opinion on renewables.

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“Across the states we started with policies designed to condition the markets and help get things going. Net metering is the poster child of that,” she said. “I think that’s a challenge because there is now a presumption that this is the way we should continue to go in a lot of places. My personal view is we need to evolve from there, we need to get more surgical in terms of pricing, to target the value of renewables that address [the] imbalance problem and moving demand around as much as possible. So pricing and markets really have to fit and policy has to evolve.”Electric Utilities Prepare for a Grid Dominated by Renewable Energy

“We have challenges and opportunities, and I’m much more in the opportunity space,” said Dunn. “What’s exciting for me being in the business today is having a chance to define what this industry looks like in the future — how to make this clean, energy future become a reality.”

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