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California ISO releases five-year strategic plan; grid integration of renewable power, support for electric vehicle charging

The California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO), California’s non-profit grid operator, released its new five-year (2012-2016) strategic plan. Between now and 2020, wind and solar generation will quadruple within the ISO transmission grid at the same time electric vehicle charging increases significantly. Advancements in technology including distributed generation such as storage as well as smart grid developments are also reshaping grid and market operations.

ISO says the changes to the industry are the most significant seen in the past 100 years and bring both tremendous opportunities as well as transitional challenges—the transformation comes just as California’s fleet of ocean-cooled coastal gas-fired plants dwindle due to new water regulations requiring they either retire, repower or be retrofitted to protect marine life.

The challenging but rewarding path to achieve a more sustainable future is not ours alone and will require deep collaboration within the electricity industry as well as a commitment to maintaining a high level of reliability. The new strategic approaches we outline in our plan address those needs and will help transition to the energy resources of tomorrow.

—Steve Berberich, ISO President and CEO

The ISO engaged with staff, industry stakeholders and its board of governors to determine the priorities the ISO should focus on in order to ensure reliability while also meeting environmental policy objectives. With these factors in mind, the ISO developed a new long range planning vehicle titled Reliable Power for a Renewable Future. The plan focuses on four key strategies:

  • Facilitate California’s transition to a smarter, cleaner, more reliable and secure energy future. Integrating the right amount of new resources requires sophisticated engineering analyses and poses significant policy questions about who pays for what, the ISO notes.

    The ISO will provide independent analysis and perspective on what the system needs when and where to help key decision makers as they consider how much renewable and related generation resources to buy, which transmission lines to approve and when, what mechanisms will best encourage customer efficiency and how to accelerate deployment of new energy storage and communication technologies that complement the ISO’s grid management and forecasting platform.

    The ISO will facilitate timely development of generator interconnection projects by managing the project queue and progress milestones in line with the state’s grid operational needs and regulatory timetables. In addition, it will provide new market mechanisms to bring online new resources offering the kinds of operational flexibility required (such as 1-minute response and more versatile ramping) to orchestrate the state’s increasingly complicated electricity network. In order to facilitate timely integration of these resources, the ISO welcomes independent transmission developers in helping build it, consistent with federal policy.

  • Ensure continued reliability during grid transformation. As renewable sources come into the system, procurement of fossil-fuel generation will decline just when it is needed to offset the intermittency of variable resources, ISO says. ISO studies show these fossil-fuel plants will remain needed for reliability until other technologies such as storage or demand response mature.

    Another complication is that current market prices do not cover the cost of operating an existing fossil-fuel power plant, let alone the cost of developing a new facility. Furthermore, existing plants are not currently eligible to compete for long-term procurement contracts for new resources.

    The ISO will work with other agencies to develop a long-term procurement strategy that ensures reliable operation throughout all areas of the grid.

  • Strengthen California’s global leadership commitment to renewable, responsible and reliable electricity. The ISO will explore new opportunities for policy coordination among policy makers. The operator will also offer the integrated road map to California’s future electric network that can drive job growth and economic opportunity in a way consistent with California’s environmental aspirations.

  • Explore opportunities for regional collaboration and focused technological innovation. There are significant imbalances among the location, mix and scale of potential renewable resources, the nature and magnitude of the customer demand they could serve, and the availability of integration services necessary to maintain reliability in the West, ISO notes. While the entire region shares the goal of accelerating renewable generation, the real challenge ISO sees is determining the right mix between independent and collaborative strategies to do that.

    ISO will encourage rapid deployment of strategically advanced technologies such as synchrophasors [synchronized phasor measurements (synchrophasors) provide real-time measurement of electrical quantities from across a power system] that provide instant visibility and faster coordinated response to grid conditions, commercial-scale energy storage and electric vehicles. It will explore opportunities for deeper collaboration and partnership with other regional players to improve the reliability, efficiency and security of electric service across our respective geographical areas of responsibility.

As a supplement to this year’s strategic plan, the ISO also developed California ISO’s Electricity Road Map. ISO says this map simplifies the complexities of a cleaner, greener power grid that continues to evolve to serve the people of California while strengthening security and reliability.



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