IREC Impact Update: A Win for Grid Transparency

Earlier this month, IREC’s leadership role in an important California ruling shed light on just how critical our independent voice is to sustaining clean energy progress for the benefit of consumers, as well as the growing clean energy industry.

In the California Distribution Resource Plan (DRP) proceeding, IREC led an effort that resulted in an important win to preserve and protect critical grid transparency tools in the state. In this and related regulatory efforts, IREC focuses on expanding fair grid access and establishing a strong foundation for more clean energy growth in California (the world’s fifth largest economy), which now has an ambitious 100% carbon-free electricity goal by 2045. To help California achieve this laudable policy goal, IREC’s continued leadership (and sustained support from our funders and sponsors) is needed now more than ever.

The story: IREC successfully leads charge to restore California’s Grid Maps. In the process of working with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the three big investor-owned utilities and several stakeholders sought to define what information about the distribution grid would be shared and made publicly available, the utilities argued that no location-specific information should be made publicly available, claiming physical and cyber-security concerns. The three utilities – unauthorized by the commission – then removed from their websites their publicly available PV Renewable Energy Auction Mechanism (RAM) maps.

California’s RAM maps are integral transparency tools that provide key information about the distribution grid, to make it easier for developers to identify prime locations on the grid to locate Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) for the benefit of Californians. They have been publicly available for years, per the commission’s direction to the utilities to identify places on the grid where there were high concentrations of DERs, and places where there was more capacity for DERs (these maps are also the precursor to California’s integrated capacity analysis maps). The California solar and storage industries and customers rely on these maps on a daily basis to inform their prospects for locating projects — they have been critical grid information tools and represent what we’d like to see offered by more utilities across the country.

Upon learning that the RAM maps were taken down from all three of the utilities’ websites, IREC quickly convened a coalition of other clean energy stakeholders to meet with the commission staff and Administrative Law Judge to point out that the utilities were clearly violating commission orders and needed to restore the maps.

Thankfully, in response to IREC and the coalition, on October 10th, the California commission ordered that Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric must restore the RAM maps.

This win was more about playing defense – preserving existing tools and ensuring California does not backslide on its progress. Our work in California and other states is setting a national example of how utilities can proactively plan for and integrate significantly higher amounts of customer-driven distributed energy resources on the grid, while maintaining safety and reliability.

Why this success story matters?. We know that this is just the first step to preventing backsliding; that there are critical steps to come that will really determine whether the grid and competitive transparency goals that are the foundation of the DRP will actually be achieved in a workable manner. And, we know that often what California does sets a national precedent for grid transformation and clean energy.

IREC is working hard to ensure we get the right results in California. We’re watching how other states are responding to the discussions there and in multiple states across the U.S. as we help shape policies and best practices that will make increased renewables possible for many more Americans.

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