Navigating the California microgrid market town by town

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Erik Svanholm, vice president of non-wires alternatives at S&C Electric, sat down with Microgrid Knowledge’s Elisa Wood at Microgrid California to discuss the vibrant California microgrid market and some of the challenges the state faces.

California communities, utilities, regulators and legislators all have a very high level of awareness about microgrids and the benefits they provide. That, according to Erik Svanholm of S&C Electric, “separates California from many other states where we find ourselves still having the discussion of what is a microgrid.”

Svanholm recently sat down with Microgrid Knowledge’s Editor-in-Chief Elisa Wood to discuss California’s vibrant and growing microgrid market. In addition to awareness, he notes that the “underlying culture in California of inventing new things that then the rest of the country and the world benefit from” is another key foundation the state’s microgrid market can build on.

The discussion includes Svanholm’s take on some of the biggest hurdles that must be overcome for broader microgrid adoption. There are factors, such as putting economic value on resilience and the price of energy storage, that are not specific to just California. However, the California market has some unique regulatory and legal challenges that must be overcome. Regulations can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, which adds both time and complexity to any microgrid project. “It just becomes too hard to navigate regulatory environments, state rules, county rules, city rules, neighborhood rules, and still have a project that gets built,” he says.

California’s strong ban on fossil fuels can also hinder the growth of the microgrid market. “While those bans are certainly meant well from a sustainability perspective,” Svanholm says, “they also limit the opportunities for flexibility and life safety in the context of microgrids. So from our perspective at S&C, we would certainly welcome a more nuanced dialogue about how fossil fuels could be used … in a responsible way.” He advocates for a longer transition away from fossil fuels.

Despite these challenges, Svanholm remains optimistic about the California microgrid market. He believes that “there really is a sincere attempt to reform and update the underlying rule sets that have been in place for the better part of a century.”

Look for more interviews with microgrid experts in the Microgrid Knowledge Video Library.

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