Building Advanced Energy Communities

Imagine living in a truly Advanced Energy Community, where energy is clean, resilient, affordable, and locally sourced. As the cost of distributed renewables and energy storage continue to fall, the realization of this vision seems close at hand – but there is still a lot of work to be done! Communities need to develop innovative policies, financing mechanisms and program designs to take full advantage of the value streams of new Distributed Energy Resources (DERs). Olivine believes in this vision and is an active participant in two technology deployment projects funded by the California Energy Commission (CEC) EPIC program for Advanced Energy Communities.

One benefit to concentrating DER deployments within specific communities is that it allows for easier aggregation of DERs into resources that can generate new revenue streams through grid services in the California wholesale market operated by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). This works because most communities are in a single SubLAP which allows for aggregations to more easily reach the minimum resource size (often 100 kW) to be bid into the market. Through the CEC grants, Olivine is helping two communities in California, Richmond and Lancaster, plan and deploy networked DERs to create CAISO resources that can open new revenue streams for the Cities and its residents.

One key goal of an Advanced Energy Communities is to invest in clean and cost effective backup generation for increased energy resiliency, especially for critical facilities within the community like Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs), fire stations, hospitals, etc. Many of these facilities are currently serviced with dirty diesel backup generators, but could be serviced with innovative microgrid designs that include solar plus storage. The benefits of this approach go beyond cleaner generation during times of crisis, but solar and storage can be monetized throughout the year and lower total energy costs by generating clean energy and providing grid services.  In the City of Richmond, Olivine is working with a diverse stakeholder group of community members to catalog energy resources, identify risks to energy supply and develop DER deployments to increase energy resilience and the supply of clean energy throughout the community. To reach this end, Olivine is following the California Local Energy Assurance Planning (CaLEAP) process to develop an Energy Assurance Strategic Plan which will be a guide to the city in developing new DER projects to increase energy resilience.

Olivine is also kicking off an effort to work with the City and local Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) Marin Clean Energy (MCE) and the distribution utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to develop a DER program to aggregate the City’s DERs with other DERs in the community to open up new revenue streams through participation in retail and wholesale demand response and grid services programs.

Further south in Lancaster, Olivine is helping the City of Lancaster achieve an aggressive target to become 100% ZNE (Zero Net Energy) by 2020. Olivine is working with the City and the local CCA Lancaster Choice Energy (LCE) to develop a Community DER Valuation Framework to assess the value of DERs to inform cost-effective resource deployments throughout the community that similarly could be aggregated for grid services. These deployments include both those pursued directly by the City and other deployments for local businesses and residents. Olivine is also helping to develop the concept of a downtown ZNE district and assisting with the technical design and interconnection of an innovative low-income ZNE development that will include solar and storage.

To reach the dream of truly Advanced Energy Communities, we need our communities to show leadership in the development of new policy and business models to maximize the cost effectiveness of deploying DERs. The good news is that this is starting to happen across California, the country and the world, and as the cost of clean energy technologies continues to drop this will open up even more opportunities for local communities.

AJ Howard leads a number of CEC-funded technology demonstration projects at Olivine working to develop new business models and programs for the integration of DERs and sustainable energy onto the modern electrical grid. Brings over 15 years of experience working on diverse topics from  program evaluation to hybrid electric vehicle design to commercial building energy benchmarking.