Rethinking California distribution system operations and grid services markets for a high-DER future
To prepare California for a “high DER future” that could overstress the state’s distribution system, a series of regulatory workshops opened May 3.
Distribution system reform is needed as California moves from “firm dispatchable one-way generation to variable two-way generation” that will accelerate the impacts of distributed energy resources, a white paper introducing the California Public Utilities Commission stakeholder-led workshops reported. The paper offered potential distribution system operator, or DSO, models that could meet coming needs.
“By DSO or another name, a different model of the distribution utility is needed, because in the future every electricity user can have DER and participate in an open access distribution network,” Lorenzo Kristov, consultant for electric system policy, structure, and market design to climate and energy policy advocates, The Climate Center, told Utility Dive. But “right now, the need for a DSO is more concrete than the DSO concept,” he added.
The workshops will develop “alternative roles and responsibilities of the distribution utility,” said Gridworks Executive Director Matthew Tisdale, who is leading the series of CPUC workshops. But those roles and responsibilities “are enormously financially and politically complicated” and “probably the most fundamental, contentious, and difficult issue in energy policy.”
Two insights about California’s distribution system work emerged from the May 3 workshop, though neither identified the state’s eventual DSO model. First, it was clear there is strong contention between some power system incumbents and community representatives on critical proceeding points, including who can participate and how to define a DSO. And second, it appears major regulatory reforms that could impact utilities’ earnings, like performance-based regulation, are part of the discussion.
The numbers and the need
DERs are “distributed renewable generation resources, energy efficiency, energy storage, electric vehicles, and demand response technologies,” according to the California Public Utilities Code.
Though rooftop solar is currently threatened by a Commerce Department inquiry and California’s net metering reconsideration, the state’s DER growth will accelerate, workshop participants agreed…