If you haven’t heard yet, there’s a “rule” that precludes distributed renewable energy projects from supplying more than 15 percent of the power to most “distribution circuits” (part of the low-voltage electric grid that brings power into homes and businesses). With the rapidly falling cost of solar power, many places in the country are starting to push up against this limit.
So there’s good news recently in California, where the state’s investor-owned utilities agreed to raise this somewhat arbitrary limit and accept more distributed generation.
The process of setting the rule is almost comical, although the rationale isn’t. Utilities want to be sure that during a power failure (from the grid), local distributed generators can’t accidentally power the local grid enough to zap repair crews who would expect the lines they’re repairing to be dead. Good idea.
But the margin for safety was rather ridiculous. Let’s assume a given portion of the grid needs 100 megawatts of power at maximum. Utilities looked for the typical “daytime minimum” (e.g. the least power used during daylight hours) and found that is was about 30 percent of that peak; in this case, 30 megawatts (probably around 6 AM). Then they divided by two: 15 megawatts or a 15 percent rule.
But this “rule” has two major problems:
The Clean Coalition and its partners in California successfully fought the utilities on this issue. Here’s a short summary from their newsletter:
The proposed settlement would Fast Track interconnection of DG projects up to 100 percent of coincidental minimum load, and this new standard will result in as much as a threefold increase in the level of DG penetration allowed in Fast Track. Under the previous arbitrary 15 percent peak load limit, DG projects only generating 30-50 percent of coincidental minimum load were eligible for Fast Track. The CPUC is expected to approve the settlement by mid-summer .
This post originally appeared on ILSR’s Energy Self-Reliant States blog.
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