California’s DER Growth Plans Can Serve as Model for the Nation

Smart grid
Published On
Jul 12, 2021

In a move that could be seen as the first step in a burgeoning nationwide trend, “Order Instituting Rulemaking to Modernize the Electric Grid for a High Distributed Energy Resource Future,” a new rulemaking launched by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), will allow regulators to take a closer look at modernizing the state’s electric grid, in anticipation of a growing wave of distributed energy resources (DERs).

According to the CPUC, “The purpose of this Order Instituting Rulemaking is to prepare the electric grid for a high number of distributed energy resources, including those specific to transportation electrification.”

To this end, the CPUC intends to provide a framework that will allow distributed solar, storage, electric vehicles and other DERs to better integrate into the grid, improve distribution system planning and enable better grid investments that consider DER siting plans and resiliency considerations.

The need is critical, according to the CPUC, in California and the country, with the CPUC noting that, “In the United States, DERs, including battery storage, customer-sited solar, demand-side management, and electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure are on track to reach 387 GW [gigawatts] of cumulative installed capacity by 2025.”

How does this compare with current traditional baseload generation? The CPUC notes that the combined coal and nuclear power capacity in the United States is currently about 330 GW, which is more than 50 GW less than the expected capacity of DERs within four years.

The CPUC expects that DER technology increases will occur on the residential and non-residential sides, with residential installations accounting for the largest share of DER installations through 2025, and with non-residential installations (including load management reductions) more than doubling their current capacity by 2025.

To achieve its goals, the CPUC plans to follow that state’s distribution resource plan, drawn up in 2014, and has three goals. The first is to modernize the electric distribution system to accommodate two-way flows of electricity and energy services throughout the networks operated by the state’s three investor-owned utilities. The second is to empower customer choice of new technologies and services that are designed to reduce emissions and improve reliability in cost-efficient ways. The third is to animate opportunities for DERs so they can realize benefits through the delivery of grid services.

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