As part of its mission to build a stronger, more resilient energy grid for the hometowns it serves, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is paving the way for more community-proposed microgrid projects to be constructed in its Northern and Central California service area.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently approved PG&E's request to update its Community Microgrid Enablement Tariff (CMET), broadly expanding the eligibility requirements of where microgrids connected to PG&E's electric distribution infrastructure can be built.
Prior to this update in October 2021, community microgrids—or self-sufficient energy systems serving a specific community or geographical area—were authorized only in CPUC-designated High Fire Threat Districts as a mitigation measure against extreme weather and Public Safety Power Shutoff events. Under the new rules, communities anywhere in PG&E's service area are now able to pursue a microgrid as part of their unique energy resilience plans.
"Microgrids are a critical part of the sustainability and climate-resilience goals of many of our customers and hometowns. By expanding the rules around where these microgrids can be built, we're able to remove barriers that would have prevented projects from moving forward, and instead work collaboratively to make these projects a reality," said Quinn Nakayama, PG&E's director of grid planning and innovation.
The expanded eligibility builds upon PG&E's Community Microgrid Enablement Program, launched in April 2021 to support the development of microgrids centered around critical facilities in high-fire threat areas.
To date, PG&E has engaged with more than three dozen communities and customers to explore potential financial and infrastructure support options for developing microgrids and resilience solutions through the CMEP.
"We strongly support PG&E's leadership around microgrids and the innovative ways they are meeting the needs of customers. More microgrids, whether they're in Silicon Valley or the Central Valley, mean a more sustainable and resilient energy future for all. It is our hope that other utilities will follow PG&E's lead and seek to partner with customers and communities to build the consumer-driven resilient grid of the future," said Alexa Arena, senior director of large-scale developments at Google and a 2021 Silicon Valley Business Journal Woman of Influence.
Case Study: Oakland EcoBlock
As an example, PG&E is working with the University of California, Berkeley on Oakland EcoBlock, a first-of-its-kind neighborhood retrofit to demonstrate a net-zero energy, block-level microgrid in Oakland's Fruitvale district.
EcoBlock includes updating participating homes with advanced energy efficiency measures, deploying a solar-powered microgrid and associated components, shared electric vehicles, and a new approach for coordinating these resources among neighbors.
"If community microgrids are to play a crucial role in advancing California's policy goals, it is imperative that practical experience with diverse design and operating approaches be gained as quickly as possible. PG&E's recent eligibility expansion will mean more microgrid adoption and fresh perspectives on what works best for California's communities," said Dr. Alexandra "Sascha" von Meier, director of electric grid research, California Institute for Energy and Environment; adjunct professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UC Berkeley; and faculty scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Read more about PG&E's efforts with Oakland EcoBlock in this Q&A: Power Distribution for the Oakland EcoBlock: A Conversation with Sascha von Meier.
Learn More About PG&E's Microgrid Solutions
For more information about PG&E's microgrid solutions or to begin exploring developing a community microgrid, visit www.pge.com/cmep. The site includes information on:
- How the program works and frequently asked questions
- Contact information and directions for getting started
- Project eligibility and prioritization
- Financial and enhanced technical support
- Tariff and agreements for the operation of community microgrids
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (PCG) - Get PG&E Corporation Report, is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news.
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