Electricity systems and what grid integration means for California can be complicated stuff. Here we’ve boiled it down into some questions and answers:
Why does California’s grid need fixing?
Even though California is set to produce 33 percent of its energy from renewables like solar and wind by 2020, the state still leans heavily on fossil fuel power plants, which pollute the air and limit the state’s clean energy and carbon reduction goals. While there is plenty of low-cost clean energy available in the western region to meet demand, the current power system consists of dozens of separate grid operators who can’t efficiently or cost-effectively move renewable energy in real- time from places where it is in large supply to places where there isn’t enough. So the clean energy exists — grid operators simply cannot access it when they need it. An integrated grid will connect grid operators throughout the West so they can share resources quickly and easily. For example, California could export its excess solar when the sun is shining, and import wind from a neighboring state when it isn’t.
How will grid integration impact consumers?
A recent study from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) shows that California electricity ratepayers would save from $1 billion to $1.5 billion per year by 2030 through participation in an integrated market. California will be able to engage in advanced energy planning, save money on power purchasing and help participants from across the region allocate resources more efficiently, saving them and their customers money.
How will an integrated grid affect job creation and employment stability in California?
California’s commitment to clean energy technology is resulting in more jobs, with a median rate of employee growth in clean-tech jobs of 7.5% in the past two years, compared with 2.3% for similar U.S. companies. An expanded, integrated grid could create over 100,000 full-time jobs in California by the year 2030, both in construction and in more sustainable “indirect” jobs across service sectors, generated by the increased economic activity.
What would an integrated grid mean for air quality?
California’s current dependence on petroleum fuels generates nearly half of California’s climate pollution, 80% of smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions and 95% of cancer-causing diesel particulates. The CAISO study found that shifting to a regional energy market would reduce emissions of critical air pollutants in the state by giving grid operators access to use renewables more often throughout the day and evening, instead of gas and coal plants. Because California’s gas plants are disproportionately located in economically disadvantaged communities, this shift will bring long overdue air quality and public health benefit to residents in these locations.
How does California clean its grid and maintain its climate leadership while integrating with other states?
Grid integration gives power system operators in California the tools they need to avoid using fossil fuel generation and rely more on renewable power instead. States like Oregon, Washington, Nevada and California are producing significant renewable power that’s lower cost than coal or gas; enabling easy access to this affordable clean energy inherently displaces and phases out fossil fuels. And no matter what, California will always retain its control and ability to procure the resources it prefers in accordance with its climate and energy goals.
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