California PUC opens proceeding to address extreme weather events

November 20, 2020

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
November 20, 2020

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on Nov. 19 launched a rulemaking that it said will address how to increase energy supply and decrease demand during peak hours if a heat storm occurs in the summer of 2021 so the state does not experience a repeat of rolling power outages.

Through the proceeding, the CPUC will implement temporary changes to existing processes, programs, and rules for demand response, and other initiatives, it said.

The CPUC will focus on near-term actions that can be adopted by April 2021 and that the utilities can implement before the summer of 2021.

The proceeding will consider multiple options, including, but not limited to:

  • Evaluating a mechanism for encouraging load shifting by compensating customers for switching to back-up generators;
  • Modernizing the California Independent System Operator’s Flex Alert program by expanding its application to social media (e.g., paid advertising content) and consumer devices;
  • Engaging various customer groups in load reduction programs, such as new event-based demand response programs or revising existing supply-side reliability demand response programs; and,
  • Directing each investor-owned utility to develop new supply-side resources that can be brought online in 2021 and to bring additional capacity online by procuring incremental capacity from the existing resources, implementing efficiency upgrades to existing generators, and retrofitting existing generators.

The CPUC also said it will address whether particular measures may extend beyond calendar year 2021. Moreover, the CPUC will consider whether specific measures would be triggered only in emergency conditions to ensure continued access to utility services.

In mid-August 2020, the western U.S. experienced an unprecedented, prolonged heat storm, which led to a variety of circumstances that ultimately required CAISO to initiate rotating power outages to prevent sustained, wide-spread service interruptions.

On October 6, 2020, the California Energy Commission, CAISO, and the CPUC issued a preliminary report on the causes of the August rotating outages, which outlined short-term and longer-term actions to mitigate electricity shortages and ensure delivery of clean, reliable, and affordable energy.

The proposal is available here.