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New Report on Maintaining Reliability While Integrating Green Power Resources

New Report on Maintaining Reliability While Integrating Green Power Resources

This post was written by attorney Roland Hall.

As the amount of wind and solar generation continues to increase, utilities are growing increasingly concerned about how to economically and efficiently maintain system reliability while integrating such variable energy resources.  Because of California’s high renewable portfolio target (33 percent by 2020), California has become the focus of studies and reports investigating how system operations will be affected by such a large mix of variable resources.  An interesting report addressing this topic was released earlier this month.  The report is a joint report by NERC (the North American Electric Reliability Association) and the California ISO (CAISO), which operates the transmission grid for most of California.  View the report by clicking here.    

As of the end of 2013 the CAISO footprint is predicted to include over 10,000 MW of solar and wind resources, with that number expected to increase to approximately 17,000 MW.  The report concludes that unless steps are taken, essential reliability services will be strained and ultimately reduced.  As has been recognized for years in the industry, it is the operating characteristics of solar and wind generation that raises reliability concerns.  In the case of CAISO, it also faces challenges in the form of retirement of traditional generation, including a nuclear plant.

The report states that solutions could come from changes in market rules and tools, new technology integration, and regulatory changes.  Also, NERC has already been working on the development of guidelines, practices and requirements to address integration issues that affect reliability. (NERC created a task force in 2007 and began issuing reports in 2009).  In part, the report gives NERC a platform to state that while reliability concerns are not yet hot-button issues in regions with smaller percentages of wind and solar, ultimately every region will be affected and utilities and agencies should start dealing with reliability issues now.   In this regard, NERC states that it “offers this report to encourage development and raise awareness among policymakers, regulators and industry so that all may successfully adapt planning and operating processes to manage future integration of [variable resources] and maintain reliability.”  The report only touches upon the issue of “who pays,” stating that “NERC recognizes that the question of ‘who pays’ still exists” and that failing to resolve this question will “impede further progress.”