Pacific Gas & Electric Temporarily Suspends Microgrid Solicitation

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Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) says it has temporarily suspended — but not canceled — a request for offers (RFO) issued in December for 20 microgrid projects.

PG&E

By Sundry Photography/Shutterstock.com

The decision came after various stakeholders expressed concern about the California utility’s aggressive deadline to get the microgrids built in 2020. PG&E had hoped the microgrids would be available this year to keep power flowing to customers during public safety power shutoffs (PSPS), where utilities de-energize lines to avert wildfires.

Called the Distributed Generation Enabled Microgrid (DEGMS) RFO, the solicitation sought front-of-the meter microgrids to be built at utility circuits. Their location also evoked criticism, with some stakeholders favoring customer-sited microgrids.

Dispute arose, too, over the type of microgrids that might be built, with some opposing use of natural gas or diesel generators.

Paul Doherty, PG&E spokesman, said that the utility “has listened to the feedback from local communities, customers, and partners and is taking action to further evaluate the best solution to keep substations energized during future PSPS events.”

Temporary generators for now

In an email, he said that the plan,“has evolved based on ongoing technical and feasibility studies and discussions” with bidders.

“PG&E did not cancel its DGEMS RFO,” he said. “PG&E’s DGEMS RFO has been temporarily suspended.”

While the utility has no plans to build permanent microgrids at the sites this year, it is considering temporary emergency generators to assist during power outages. The utility already had a plan underway for 300 MW of temporary generation, which it now might expand.

Earlier PG&E had said that bidding in the microgrid RFO was “robust.” It has declined to name the bidders. By some estimates the RFO could result in about $1 billion in microgrids.

Next steps for PG&E

What will happen beyond 2020?

“On a forward-looking basis, all 20 of the identified substations are expected to remain vulnerable to PSPS de-energization for the next several years or longer, and, therefore, some form of local energy supplies would help mitigate the customer impacts of such PSPS events,” he said.

PG&E intends to file more details about its plans with the California Public Utilities Commission in the coming weeks.

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In addition to the microgrid RFO, the utility has issued a system reliability solicitation. The RFO seeks 716.9 MW of resource adequacy capacity to come online between August 1, 2021 and August 1, 2023. Issued February 28, the solicitation seeks bids by March 25. The utility will consider both in-front-the-meter and behind-the-meter resources, including demand response.

PG&E is the second California utility to recently delay a microgrid solicitation. Saying a tight schedule is driving up costs, Southern California Edison (SCE) on March 16 canceled plans for pilot microgrids in 2020 and instead will re-seek them for 2021 and 2022. Like PG&E, SCE wants to install microgrids to keep the power flowing to customers when it de-energizes power lines to prevent sparks during wildfire conditions.

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

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