California set a new renewable energy usage record on April 3 — big deal or not big deal?

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After months of negative headlines related to the net metering 3.0 (NEM 3.0) proposed decision, a reminder of its progress emerged: CALISO noted that, for a brief moment, the state hit a peak of 97.6 percent renewable energy on April 3. A new record on California’s committed path to a carbon-free power system by 2045.

The peak, which occurred briefly at 3:39 p.m., broke the previous record of 96.4 percent set on March 27, 2022. Before that, the grid’s record for clean power was 94.5 percent, set on April 21, 2021. The new milestone comes as the ISO integrates growing amounts of renewable energy onto the grid in support of the state’s clean energy goals.

The grid also set a historical solar peak of 13,628 MW just after noon on April 8, and an all-time wind peak of 6,265 MW just before 3 p.m. on March 4. Renewable peaks typically occur in the spring, due to mild temperatures and the sun angle allowing for an extended window of strong solar production. ISO analysis forecasts a potential for more renewable records in April.

Another 600 MW of solar and 200 MW of wind are projected to be added to the grid by June 1 of
this year. The system currently has more than 2,700 MW of storage, most of it in lithium-ion batteries, and that number is projected to grow to about 4,000 MW by June 1.

And while that milestone is neat, Save California Solar coalition reminds that without rooftop solar it would have never occurred.

More than 12 GW of electricity capacity was available in California via rooftop solar systems on April 3, nearly matching the 15 GW of generation capacity via utility scale solar power plants.

“Second, California’s renewable energy progress is better measured by conditions on a hot August summer day than a cool April spring day,” the group writes. “On August 15, 2020 at 3:40pm for example, California’s electricity demand was 43 GW compared with the 17 GW demanded of the grid on April 3, 2022 at 3:40pm. On August 15, 2020, as California faced rolling blackouts and grid operators scrambled to find enough energy to keep the lights on, consumers with solar and battery storage came to the rescue.

It is Earth Week, so take minute to admire what has been achieved, but it will take 100 GW more energy produced by solar to meet its goals. Rooftop solar is vital for getting there.

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