Send your community microgrid plans to PG&E ─ California utility expanded eligibility to entire service area

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently approved PG&E’s request to update its Community Microgrid Enablement Tariff (CMET), which broadly expands the eligibility requirements of where microgrids connected to PG&E’s electric distribution infrastructure can be built.

Prior to this update in October 2021, community microgrids—or self-sufficient energy systems serving a specific community or geographical area—were authorized only in CPUC-designated High Fire Threat Districts as a mitigation measure against extreme weather and Public Safety Power Shutoff events.

Under the new rules, communities anywhere in PG&E’s service area are now able to pursue a microgrid as part of their unique energy resilience plans.

“Microgrids are a critical part of the sustainability and climate-resilience goals of many of our customers and hometowns. By expanding the rules around where these microgrids can be built, we’re able to remove barriers that would have prevented projects from moving forward, and instead work collaboratively to make these projects a reality,” said Quinn Nakayama, PG&E’s director of grid planning and innovation.

The expanded eligibility builds upon PG&E’s Community Microgrid Enablement Program, launched in April 2021 to support the development of microgrids centered around critical facilities in high-fire threat areas. To date, PG&E has engaged with more than three dozen communities and customers to explore potential financial and infrastructure support options for developing microgrids and resilience solutions through the CMEP.

“If community microgrids are to play a crucial role in advancing California’s policy goals, it is imperative that practical experience with diverse design and operating approaches be gained as quickly as possible. PG&E’s recent eligibility expansion will mean more microgrid adoption and fresh perspectives on what works best for California’s communities,” said Dr. Alexandra “Sascha” von Meier, director of electric grid research, California Institute for Energy and Environment; adjunct professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UC Berkeley; and faculty scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Examples. PG&E is working with the University of California, Berkeley on Oakland EcoBlock, a first-of-its-kind neighborhood retrofit to demonstrate a net-zero energy, block-level microgrid in Oakland’s Fruitvale district. EcoBlock includes updating participating homes with advanced energy efficiency measures, deploying a solar-powered microgrid and associated components, shared electric vehicles, and a new approach for coordinating these resources among neighbors.

PG&E intends to model future multi-customer community microgrids on the Redwood Coast Airport Renewable Energy Microgrid (pictured above), a unique collaboration among PG&E, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Humboldt County, among others.

This front-of-the-meter, multi-customer microgrid features a 2.2-megawatt PV array covering seven acres, which is DC-coupled with a 2 MW or 8 MWh battery energy storage system from Tesla. It is in development and scheduled for full operation in the coming months. Once complete RCAM will be the first operational multi-customer microgrid in PG&E’s service area.

The Redwood Coast Airport Microgrid (RCAM) will provide renewable energy for 18 customer meters, including the Arcata-Eureka Airport and a U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, and serve as a lifeline for Humboldt County in a natural disaster or other emergency. The microgrid will be capable of disconnecting from the broader grid (island mode) and operating as an independent, PG&E-operated grid segment during a planned or unplanned power outage.

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