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Distributed Energy Resources Respond to California's Recent Outages

image credit: Choneschones |

California has been suffering brief power outages as a heat wave has put pressure on utilities in the State. On Friday and Saturday, according to ABC News, three utilities had to shed loads: Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric cut power to over 410,000 homes and businesses for around an hour starting at about 5 pm on Friday.

Temperatures around the state hit triple digits in many areas so lots of people turned on their air conditioning, increasing demand at a critical time. A sewer pump stopped working at a wastewater treatment plant in Oakland and 50,000 gallons of raw sewage were released into a waterway. The heat also ignited wildfires, which fortunately did not spread far and were extinguished by fire services.

Utilities were stretched and reacted with ingenious measures to contain the issue. Grid operator CAISO and the state’s utilities called on a wide range of suppliers to help alleviate the problem, including micro-grid operators, Electric Vehicle (EV) charging providers, backup generators and other distributed energy resources, including Behind-the-Meter battery systems from STEM and Tesla.

Micro-grids, solar-plus-storage systems, EV chargers, dispatch-able energy loads and other distributed energy resources (DERs) are going to be needed in future as the Golden State moves towards generating completely carbon-free energy by its target of 2045.

The lesson of this is that places like California - with ambitious renewable energy and emissions reduction programs - need to ensure that they have also invested in enough storage and demand-reduction technology to keep the power on. Climate change is going to keep bringing heatwaves and unstable weather, and utilities will need to forecast and plan appropriately if they are to avoid more blackouts in future.

Julian Jackson's picture

Thank Julian for the Post!

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Steven Collier's picture
Steven Collier on Sep 9, 2020 3:09 pm GMT

Good info and insight. The grid is (fortunately) steadily moving toward better economy, sustainability, efficiency, resilience, reliability through decentralization, digitization, disintermediation, all increasingly enabled by the IIoT. Bob Metcalf's prediction of an Enernet is coming true.

Rajiv Sharaf's picture
Rajiv Sharaf on Sep 9, 2020 6:06 pm GMT

Good information.  Actually,  with DER coupled with EV makes the Energy Demand Fotecasting for day ,month ahead a very crtical. This will avoid / reduce penalties for under/ over utilization .

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