Net zero building retrofits were identified in a Cal-IRES report as a key element of a renewable energy roadmap for Davis, California. In the past year I’ve had opportunities to smoke the devil out of the details of this vision. I purchased a PV system for our home, negotiated a solar electricity power purchase agreement for our church, and worked with a few like-minded colleagues to advocate for applying net zero as a standard for a new residential development in the city. In parallel, in the 2013 legislative session our state senator, Lois Wolk, successfully carried legislation that carved out 20MW for the city in a bill that mandates 600MW of "solar gardens" state-wide.
The classical planning view would be that in an electric generation mix, higher capital cost/ lower fuel cost generators and higher fuel cost/ lower capital cost generators complement one another, resulting in a least cost generation mix. There are also other complementarities, e.g. overlapping science and technology needs (think enhanced geothermal and natural gas fracking). Likewise, there is a potential at least for shared infrastructure (think injection of bio-methane and later hydrogen from renewable sources into gas pipelines and distribution systems).
When we use the term “renewable integration” to describe IRESN’s focus, what do we mean? Integration with what? In what context?
IRESN has been active in certain major dimensions of renewable integration. They are:
- Project integration
- Infrastructure integration
- Money integration
- Societal integration
Without some examples, these terms don’t help much either. So, for example
IRESN Comments to the California Public Utilities Commission Hearing on Community Choice Aggregation Issues, February 1, 2017
The on-going rapid expansion of Community Choice Energy (Community Choice) in California is a breakthrough opportunity for successful deployment of economic, efficient and environmentally responsible local energy resources into competitive energy markets.
Subsidies from government to new technologies or industries date back hundreds of years in the U. S. The purpose of subsidies is generally to give exciting new technologies a boost in helping fund the cost of starting up until its’ cost of production is competitive with older, less desirable methods. Subsidies keep prices for consumers below market levels or for producers above market levels, or reduce costs for consumers and producers. Subsidies have also been introduced to increase production of a product whose national need has increased due to war or other national calamity.
Looking back through the short history of man's use of and eventually dependence upon electricity illustrates the nature and complexity of this evolution, how it's organized and how it's financed. In California as in the US, mature, centralized electrical energy grid infrastructures exist. Transitioning to clean, climate friendly and smarter electricity systems means bringing innovative, capital intensive, and increasingly decentralized power sector infrastructure on stream.
(The following article by Gerry Braun was published on September 1, 2015 in Renewable Energy World. It included content from the executive summary of an IRESN report entitled Integrated Energy Analysis for Davis, California. Click here for the Renewable Energy World article and here for a pdf of the full report.)
Thanks to cost-effective rooftop solar electricity, new neighborhoods in California are generating their own electricity from the start. Likewise, local grids serving settled communities are being strengthened by deployment of local sources, smarter end use, and electricity storage. Regulators are considering new grid architectures that allow each local grid to be operated according to its unique blend of local and imported supply and evolving usage patterns.
In California and the US, mature, centralized energy grid infrastructure exists. So, does centralized, carbon intensive electricity supply infrastructure. Transitioning to clean, climate friendly and smarter electricity systems means bringing innovative, capital intensive, and increasingly decentralized power sector infrastructure on stream. National, state and local policy should recognize and address the implications for finance, particularly the need for investments that capture and optimize local economic benefits.
In this regard, we see an urgent need for policy research that informs movement toward a new balance of planning and investment between centralized (Washington, state capitols and Wall Street) and local. Lacking local empowerment, we see decentralization occurring anyway as a natural evolution, with trial and error adding cost and extending time frames.
Set a goal, commit, make a plan, do the work, have fun. Common sense that reminds me of Integrated Resources Network (IRESN) colleague, Ronnie Holland’s, approach to life. Everyone, of course, does their work. Not everyone is purposeful about the other four steps. In his essay, “Headwork”, Edward Hoagland reflects on the notion of “work”. He says that “work…can become second nature, and you can’t stop, don’t want to stop, don’t need to know who benefits – continuing with it for its own sake but with the destination of reaching other ears and minds.”
That might just sum up IRESN’s 2014. We set goals, committed, made a plan, and 2014 was about doing the work. We had some fun. Not much time left for IRESN communications. Making more time for communications will be a 2015 goal.