For immediate release Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Contact: Barbara George, Women’s Energy Matters, 415-755-3147, firstname.lastname@example.org
WEM CALLS FOR CPUC ACTION
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced April 19th that it is proposing national standards to ensure grid-reliability of Energy Efficiency and Demand Response. Women’s Energy Matters (WEM) welcomes standards that would demonstrate that clean resources can be substituted for nuclear power, and the lights will stay on!
The failure of the San Onofre nuclear plant, now shut for twelve weeks, highlights the importance of taking action to implement energy efficiency and solar to secure energy for Southern California without relying on dangerous and unreliable nuclear power or heavily polluting old natural gas power plants.
FERC states that its proposed standards should “help to ensure that energy efficiency resources and other electricity resources are treated comparably.” They include common-sense procedures that California avoids — like reporting where energy was saved. Barbara George, Exec. Dir. of WEM, explained, “If you don’t know where efficiency measures were installed, you can’t see where the load was reduced — so Calif. utilities can claim that they need more power supplies where they really don’t.”
All this may come at a surprise to people who think rooftop solar and energy efficiency projects are already substituting for power supplies. After all, California’s “Energy Action Plan” mandates the “loading order” of resources, which “identifies energy efficiency and demand response [followed by renewables and distributed generation] as the State’s preferred means of meeting growing energy needs.”
George said that the reality is just the opposite. “Utilities continue to buy or build dirty fossil-fueled power to supply California’s high peak demand, instead of simply shaving off the peak with more efficient air conditioners, insulation, or solar panels.”
“The importance of the proposed national standards cannot be exaggerated. Currently, California spends $1.3 billion dollars a year on energy efficiency programs and millions more on solar — but prevents them from really offsetting energy supplies. Ratepayers pay for redundant resources, while pollution and climate change worsen.” WEM produced a colorful chart showing that according to CPUC’s own Planning Assumptions, California has 50% excess power, through 2020 — and 40% excess without any nuclear power.
After Fukushima, WEM urged CPUC to require utilities to use energy efficiency, local renewables and demand response as replacement resources whenever nuclear power plants are offline. With San Onofre expected to be out all summer, George said this is the time to adopt WEM’s recommendations. “Fully utilizing energy efficiency, demand response and solar would provide a bonanza of good jobs, reduce customers’ bills, and eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions for years to come. The lights would stay on, blackouts would be unnecessary, and we would avoid the expense and pollution caused by patching up Edison’s old Huntington Beach gas power plant to run for a single summer.”
George noted, “Pressure to resurrect Huntington Beach is growing as the weather heats up, but this is a manufactured crisis. Clean energy solutions have been authorized and funded — now CPUC must order Edison to use them to substitute for power supplies.”
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Background — San Onofre nuclear station and Huntington Beach power plant:
San Onofre has been shut down for twelve weeks because of malfunctioning steam generators in both reactors. The steam generators are only one or two years old, and cost almost $700 million. There is a growing scandal over Edison’s unauthorized design changes which appear to have caused the malfunctions and may be unfixable.
Two units of the old gas-fired power plant at Huntington Beach were disabled to ensure that they stayed offline, so that Edison could use the air pollution allowances for its new gas power plant, the Walnut Creek Energy Center, which will be finished next year.
Background — WEM urged CA to adopt the standards on which FERC’s are based
For years WEM has urged the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and grid operator (CAISO) to adopt the standards on which FERC’s proposed standards are partially based. These were developed by Independent System Operator-New England (ISO-NE), which manages electricity transmission in Northeast US. ISO-NE has allowed energy efficiency, demand response and solar to bid against energy supplies for five years. WEM encouraged California to follow suit, by providing CPUC with ISO-NE’s Manual for Measurement and Verification of Demand Reduction Value from Demand Resources. http://www.iso-ne.com/rules_proceds/isone_mnls/
George stated, “The CPUC evaded this topic. For example, when WEM introduced the ISO-New England Manual and auction results in hearings in the procurement planning case last year, utility witnesses pretended that they could not imagine energy efficiency competing with power supplies. Edison lawyers objected to admitting the documents into evidence; and the Judge sustained the objection.”
George brought the issue up again last week in the initial conference for CPUC’s new procurement proceeding. “The Judge refused to set a date to discuss how to get utilities to count and report their clean resources, but now with FERC proposing national standards, we’re hopeful that the Commission will finally begin to take this seriously. The CPUC and utilities are fond of saying that California’s energy efficiency programs are the best in the world, when in fact they’re just the most expensive. We hope FERC’s action will push the Commission into finally utilizing energy efficiency to make the ‘loading order’ real — and do it in time to ensure clean, affordable replacement resources for San Onofre.”
Background: How CPUC and utilities avoid using clean resources
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) allows investor-owned utilities (IOUs) PG&E, So. Calif. Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. to prevent energy efficiency and local solar from competing against new power supplies or power lines, for example by defining these resources as ineligible to bid.
In another bureaucratic maneuver, utilities are allowed to hide energy efficiency and solar projects from the grid operator, California Independent System Operator (CAISO). Currently, CAISO can only see what’s on the transmission wires (the heavy lines strung on large towers). Typical resources connected to transmission wires are large-scale resources such as gas, coal and nuclear power, hydropower, wind farms, geothermal, and large solar.
Energy efficiency and local solar are situated on the distribution wires (the smaller, neighborhood power lines), which utilities own and operate as an exclusive fiefdom. Utilities fail to count or report these resources, and CPUC fails to order them to do it.
PG&E feigned ignorance: “PG&E cannot exactly know where [load] reductions or increases will occur” because “PG&E load forecasting methodology does not specifically adjust for changes in peak load because of increased customer photovoltaic installations, customer Energy Efficiency (EE) Programs, or increased load due to EV increased penetration.” PG&E General Rate Case Testimony, Vol. 3, p. 9-12 (A0912020).
When WEM asked CAISO about PG&E’s statement, it admitted that utilities provide no data about what’s on their distribution systems and this “lack of visibility” of EE and local solar may result in “forecast errors.”
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Women’s Energy Matters has been a watchdog in CPUC regulatory proceedings since 2001. WEM’s Exec. Director, Barbara George, has worked on replacing nuclear power with energy efficiency and renewables for over three decades.