Solving Californias energy puzzle: Microgrids, home batteries and power-to-gas

Once again on Wednesday (14 October), a warning was issued by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), one of California’s three main investor-owned utilities, that power would be shut off to some customers in areas at risk of wildfires due to high winds.

The utility said that approximately 53,000 customers in 24 counties would be affected by a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) which would last through to Friday morning. Again, while some on social media inevitably politicised the problem, blaming Governor Gavin Newsome for shutting down coal and nuclear plants in the state, the fact is that PG&E is acting in order to reduce the risk of its transmission and distribution network causing more fires, as they have done in the past when wires were felled and damaged by high winds.

Therefore the source of generation used is not just irrelevant, but centralised generation such as fossil fuels or nuclear feeding out across lines to customers many miles away is becoming risky in itself.

In fact as many have argued, giving customers the choice of distributed solar and batteries at their own homes or on the community level could reduce both the risk of fires and enable those customers to be more independent of their utility’s shut-off demands.

Earlier this week, we began summarising just a few of the big (and small) picture topics affecting California’s clean energy industry that have come across our desks. This followed three of the state’s energy authorities having issued their prelimi....

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