But to help underscore that, some key questions should be addressed:
Can the electric grid handle the increased power needed if we go to all-electric buildings AND adopt lots more electric vehicles (EVs)?
Yes, because the increased demand for electricity by both all-electric buildings and EVs will happen over time, allowing for the grid to adapt.
Nevertheless, investment in upgrades to the electric distribution and transmission system will be required over time. This is similar to the modernization of the electric grid when air conditioning became widely used in the 1970s. The successful strategy at the time included increasing generation, modernizing the grid and improving the efficiency of systems. And that same time-honored strategy will be deployed now, alongside the current growth in renewable generation, modernization of the distribution and transmission system and installation of more efficient appliances.
Is there enough clean electricity to meet this increased demand?
Renewable energy is the least expensive and fastest growing source of energy in California. One thing that will be essential to long-term reliability of renewable power will be expansion of long-duration battery and other storage that allows renewable power to be used at all times regardless of whether the sun is shining or wind is blowing. According to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), 3,500 megawatts of utility-scale storage came online this year at a pace that is already almost 50% greater than the annual rate needed for the state to reach full decarbonization of our power sector by 2045.
Peninsula Clean Energy and several other northern and Central Coast Community Choice Aggregation agencies have banded together to pursue joint renewable power and long-duration storage opportunities, including providing 500 megawatts of long-duration energy storage over the coming decade. We are also pursuing our own independent opportunities as an agency, including recent 15-year agreements to receive both solar and battery storage from two projects in Kern and Riverside counties. There will be much more of that to come.
Can we rely on electricity as the sole power source for our homes and businesses?
Almost none of the outages Californians have experienced has been caused by insufficient energy supply. Current grid challenges, such as public safety power shutoffs, are driven by growing extreme weather events and the effect on the transmission grid. These events are, in part, a consequence of accelerating climate change further exacerbated by use of methane gas and other fossil fuels. Investing in this clean energy transition will reduce these impacts.
A recent study by the California Energy Commission found that building renewables and storage over the next five years, which Peninsula Clean Energy is aggressively pursuing, would result in a more reliable grid than if we built an equivalent amount of methane gas plants.
This is because while solar and wind can vary with weather, we can use storage to even out this variation. In fact, the outages of summer 2020 were caused in significant part from the unexpected loss of a 494-megawatt methane gas plant at the same time gas resources were unable to produce at full capacity because of the extreme heat wave.
As your locally controlled and not-for-profit official power provider, we are partnering with the city of Menlo Park and others in San Mateo County to make critical facilities and community centers more energy resilient. We are also helping homeowners become energy self-sufficient, including partnering with solar installers to provide incentives for residential battery storage. And we are working on exciting and innovative options to use electric cars as a backup power generator at home.
There are very strong feelings on both sides of the building electrification debate. But we do have enough clean and affordable power to make it work. And the benefits of this clean electrification transition for Menlo Park are too good to pass up.
Jan Pepper is CEO of Peninsula Clean Energy.
This story contains 721 words.
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