California has a nice problem: It’s producing so much clean solar energy that the state’s electric grid is at capacity, and sometimes beyond.
As Vox’s David Roberts reports in his excellent piece about California’s grid headache, it makes good sense to expand the system by interconnecting state-run energy markets.
But he also notes, at the end of his story, some other and complementary strategies California can use to increase its grid bandwidth – while accommodating rapidly growing, but variable, renewable energy sources.
Connected grids, alone, are not a long-term fix.
One such strategy is time-of-use pricing, which encourages customers to shift some of their energy use to predictable and convenient times of day when clean energy sources are plentiful, and electricity cheaper. This innovative program, soon to be piloted in California, is expected to lower peak demand for energy over time.
Time-of-use pricing will help California stretch the capacity of its grid.
Along with increased energy efficiency, energy storage and distributed power solutions such as rooftop and community solar initiatives, time-of-use pricing will help California stretch the capacity of its grid. Not to mention the fact that customers who sign up for it can pay less for electricity.
It helps us empower people, and to become smarter about how we produce and use energy.
As we continue to ramp up renewable energy sources and move from dirty fuels to clean power, we need solutions that help the system transition seamlessly, efficiently and affordably.
Connecting our patchwork of grids is something we’ll be hearing more about in California and beyond. But let’s not forget the other clean energy solutions we need in tandem to create the clean energy economy of the future.
Hi Oak Norton and thank you for your comment. Where do you live, and what is the name of the time-of-use program you're enrolled in, or name of your utility?
In reply to We have time of use pricing by Oak Norton
Redlands, CA (near L.A.) Our electricity is from So.Cal Edison which provides the time of use billing.
In reply to Hi Oak Norton and thank you by krives
I agree that the time-of-use rates offered currently have peak prices during the day, but that will change as more solar and wind powers the grid.
We’ll be changing to time-of-use rates that have low prices during the day, exactly why the three big California utilities, including So Cal Edison, need to do a good job studying how best to communicate to customers about time-of-use rates in their pilot programs this summer.
We’ll need to transition customers to time-of-use rates that work for them and help California integrate more renewables. EDF has and continues to advocate for the integration of renewables as a core component of time-of-use rates.
Thank you so much for your interest in the blog and for your comments.
In reply to Redlands, CA (near L.A.) Our by Oak Norton
I'm a solar rooftop homeowner and very satisfied with my system. I think we need to educate people about the basics of solar rooftop energy.
Pumped hydro storage, which saves energy from excess supply to [support] high-demand periods, is a proven and very efficient technology. But its deployment is controlled by FERC which – as many have noted – is run by past and future gas company executives. It takes them a couple of years to approve a 400-mile pipeline project, but as long as a decade to approve even a small pumped hydro proposal. FERC does not work for us, it works for the gas industry.
How about some information here... Is this - too much solar - just from one day - March 23? If so, why were we still importing energy during the "overage" time period? What was the composition of these imports? (Nat Gas, Wind,Hydro, Coal?) Are there contracts where CAISO is forced to use fossil fuel production? Could we have exported some of this solar to Oregon? Arizona? CA has pumped hydro - was solar used to pump water - if not, why not? etc...
TOU is one option but there are many other options/questions to explore as well.
Thank you for your interest in the blog and for your comment. This over-production of solar power will be most pronounced on sunny spring afternoons when solar is at its peak, and when people are not using a lot of energy with air conditioners, for example.
However, as California moves to a 50% renewable energy target, this is likely to happen more and more. You’re right, time-of-use rates are one of many ways we should be addressing this issue. Some other strategies EDF is working on in California include smart electric vehicle charging, stationary storage, and expanding CAISO to create a Western regional energy market so that we could trade some of this solar to other Western states.
Getting time-of-use rates right in California has substantial potential to help to address this issue as part of a portfolio of strategies. Here is a good report that can give you more information, and I recommend you look at Table 1 on page 14.
In reply to How about some information by Joe Deely
Could I save more money with a solar hot water system or a solar PV system?
We have time-of-use pricing and it does the opposite of what you say. For the cheapest rate we have to use power after 10 pm, which is not when any solar energy is being generated.
Oak NortonApril 14, 2016 at 5:41 pm