Will a Single Utility, PG&E, Boost the 2020 Microgrid Market by $1 Billion?
By some estimates, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is creating a $1 billion opportunity for microgrids, meaning one utility in one year could boost the worldwide market by 10%.
Not surprisingly, the California utility by its own account received a “robust” number of bids by companies that want to provide the microgrids. PG&E issued a solicitation in December for 20 microgrids, totalling more than 500 MW, to be built in 2020. The utility also has plans to build another 28 at a later date.
The volume of the responses contributed to the utility’s decision to postpone submitting project agreements to state regulators and the bankruptcy court, originally set for today, and now scheduled for the second quarter, which gives the utility with more time as it tries to work with stakeholders, according to PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty.
Despite the magnitude of the opportunity, some microgrid developers decided to sit out the bidding, concerned about its tight deadlines and the overall effectiveness of the utility’s strategy. PG&E wants the 20 microgrids built this year to help avert power outages when its forced to again de-energize lines that might spark wildfires, a situation that left nearly 1 million customers without power last fall.
Among those sitting out the bidding are New Jersey-based Scale Microgrid, whose chief operating officer and co-founder, Tim Hade, described the utility’s plan as a sledgehammer where a needle and thread is required.
Sitting out the bidding
Hade, of course, is not against microgrids being built in California. In fact, he’s gone from spending about 50% of his working hours in the state to now almost all. He’s not alone, with other microgrid companies also describing the state as a vortex of microgrid activity, with businesses, institutions, cities and even homeowners not waiting for a utilty solution, but installing microgrids on their own, as they brace for what’s expected to be a decade of public safety power shutoffs (PSPS).