Gridworks recently brought together state energy agencies, local government representatives, and Pacific Gas and Electric to determine the causes of and identify mitigations for electric resiliency challenges facing California’s North Coast. Individuals from these organizations spent two years learning alongside one another and working collaboratively to develop and implement a replicable energy resiliency problem-solving framework. Through applying the problem-solving framework, these stakeholders reached agreement on cost-effective solutions to power outages along the North Coast caused by Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events during wildfire season. This case study explores the structure of this problem-solving framework and how it was used in the North Coast Resiliency Initiative (NCRI).
With support from the Initative’s Steering Committee, Gridworks and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) developed a four-phase problem-solving framework that can be used to better understand the root causes of and identify preferred solutions to any energy resilience issue. The four-phase problem-solving framework consists of high level steps with a series of questions to guide the respondent in addressing their own energy resilience challenge. A fillable version of the problem-solving framework with a detailed list of questions to use in your work is available for download below.
Phase 1: Build the Foundation – Identify objectives, principles, participants and their roles, and a governance structure.
Phase 2: Define the Problem – Develop the problem statement and identify root causes, implications, and current efforts.
Phase 3: Explore and Compare Mitigation – Identify a solution by collecting data then comparing that solution to alternatives using a consistent methodology.
Phase 4: Prepare for Implementation – Integrate solutions into a comprehensive plan, identify funding, and revisit participant roles, responsibilities, and governance structure.
Through applying the problem-solving framework, the NCRI identified the following cost-effective mitigations for PSPS impacts affecting customers along California’s North Coast:
Repairing or replacing several pieces of equipment on transmission lines could reduce the projected number of certain transmission-level PSPS events in the area by 80%. Doing so is projected to cost only $500,000 and can be completed by the end of 2023.
An existing transmission switch can supply energy to an impacted substation in the region from an alternate transmission line that is not considered in-scope for most anticipated PSPS events. This reduces the number of projected substation outages caused by PSPS events from 9 to potentially three or fewer over a ten-year period. This can be accomplished without additional work or spending.
PG&E’s proposed Clean Substation Microgrid (CSM) at the Calistoga substation will reduce the number of projected substation outages caused by PSPS events from 5 to zero. The Calistoga CSM will install 8.5 MWs of batteries and green hydrogen fuel cells with an online date of June 2024. PG&E has proposed a budget cap of ~$50 million in revenue requirement for this project.
A report summarizing the NCRI’s scope, key findings, and detailing the lessons learned along the way is available here. The Initiative’s website is here.
Gridworks staff Claire Halbrook (right) and Sarina Soor (left) presented the framework at the 2023 California Adaptation Forum in a session titled, “Mitigating Public Safety Power Shutoffs: An Energy Resiliency Problem Solving Framework”. As a group, participants identified their own energy resilience issues and applied the framework together. The deck from that presentation is available here.
An effective partnership between Gridworks and the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission has made it possible for an under-staffed agency to overcome challenges in its transition to clean energy.
In 2019 New Mexico adopted the Energy Transition Act, setting a zero-carbon resource standard for investor-owned utilities by 2045. The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, an under-staffed agency transitioning from elected to appointed Commissioners, faced the challenge of leading utilities toward their ambitious target.
How did the Commission push ahead under challenging circumstances? Through partnerships and effective stakeholder engagement which are led by the Commission and supported by Gridworks.
Gridworks partnered directly with Commissioners and staff to design and execute impactful stakeholder engagement. The initiative included:
In 2019, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission decided to take on advanced rate design in a full-force effort coordinated with DER Program and Technical updates. This case study takes a closer look at Hawaii’s advanced rate design initiative and the role of the 2020 Advanced Rate Design Working Group facilitated by Gridworks.
While Hawaii is home to some of the most progressive clean energy policies, the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ rate design had not significantly changed for a number of years. The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission recognizes that dynamic rate designs are critical to align customer behavior with grid needs and realize the full value of DER. However, a number of competing priorities must be balanced with new rate design including installation of advanced metering infrastructure across the islands and updates to existing DER program designs.
To meet Hawaii’s needs, Gridworks designed and facilitated Hawaii’s Advanced Rate Design Working Group.
Over a three month period, the Working Group met to discuss rate design theory, necessary data inputs, and parties’ rate design proposals. In total, the Working Group convened in seven biweekly, three-hour meetings and two supplemental one-hour meetings focused on data. Meeting subjects included:
Utility Cost of Service Study Methods
Residential Rate Proposals
Commercial Rate Proposals
Electric Vehicle Rates Proposals
Lessons Learned from Rate Design Pilots
Marketing, Education, and Outreach
The Working Group hosted industry experts to share experience and lessons learned on different aspects of rate design, including cost classification, revenue apportionment, marketing, and lessons learned from pilots in other jurisdictions. These shared learning opportunities provided the Working Group with a common foundation and consistent language to apply in Working Group discussions.
Throughout the Working Group process, parties presented their principles and ideas for time-of-use rate design, including the appropriate data sources and the availability of those sources. Parties included the Hawaiian Electric Companies (which serves the islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, and Lanai), the Consumer Advocate, and DER Parties (a coalition of DER advocates). The Parties’ commitment and dedication to providing detailed proposals was integral to the productivity and success of the Working Group.
The Advanced Rate Design Working Group initiative led to the following outcomes:
Shared learning among stakeholders and staff on key advanced rate design concepts
New opt-out time-of-use rates for residential and commercial customers comprised of a:
Customer charge to recover customer-specific metering and billing costs
Grid access charge to recover costs to connect to the electric grid
Time-differentiated energy charge at a 1:2:3 price ratio for overnight, daytime, and peak periods, respectively
Establishment of a three-phased implementation process:
Ramp Up: Finalize the rate design; Evaluation and Assessment plan; Marketing, Education, and Outreach plan; and the utility’s internal preparations (e.g., training Call Center staff, updates to the billing system)
Roll Out: One-year study period to track customer behavior, bill impacts, and other issues relating to customer enrollment in opt-out TOU rates
Evolve: Implement updates to TOU rate design, inputs, and/or implementation, as needed, prior to broader customer enrollment
Bill protection for residential customers for bill increases over $10 per bill (for the first six months)
Reconvening of the Advanced Rate Design Working Group to finalize TOU rate development, monitor implementation progress, and discuss future updates
In 2021 Gridworks asked our partners “how can we ensure that the growth of the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) industry in California is sustainable, accessible, and equitable?” Policy-makers and representatives of labor, the environment, and social justice took up the challenge. Gridworks convened these leaders four times over 10 weeks to facilitate their discussion of labor and equity concerns related to the ZEV industry. The insights gained through their collaboration led to the development of a new framework for high road standards for zero-emission transportation.
California’s policies, goals, and investments in the ZEV industry have set a clear pathway for industry growth in the coming years. However, without strategic intervention, growth of the ZEV industry is likely to widen the existing clean energy gap between low- and middle-income Californians and those with more wealth. Further, while ZEV industry growth is projected to create new jobs, the location, quality, and type of those jobs is unclear, and undirected job creation has the potential to perpetuate existing trends in wage stagnation and income inequality in California.
Over 10 weeks Gridworks convened our partners to discuss how California’s ZEV industry could take the high road to advance sustainability, accessibility and equity. These industry leaders had some experience working with each other individually; however, the group as a whole was a new composition with some folks working together for the first time.
The following flow chart shows Gridworks’ project approach.
This initiative led to the following outcomes:
Published “Advancing High Road Standards in Zero-Emission Transportation,” addressing standards for hiring and wages, compliance, training and apprenticeship, organizing, public spending, and domestic sourcing;
Bridged gap between advocates and policy leaders;
Shared presentation and promotion of high road standards to state leaders through targeted communication channels.
The outcomes contribute to a new direction towards a high road economy for California.
In 2018 the Building Decarbonization Coalition partnered with Gridworks to develop A Roadmap to Decarbonize California’s Buildings, a path forward for California to assertively, efficiently, and equitably decarbonize California’s buildings. The Coalition, including industry, advocacy, government experts, and private sector leaders, worked together to determine its shared goals and priorities. Gridworks facilitated their successful collaboration and produced the resulting Roadmap.
At least 26% of California’s end use greenhouse gas emissions are produced in buildings, primarily in heating space and water. While the state has made significant progress removing emissions from power generation through a transition to clean energy, progress from the diffuse and challenging building sector has been limited. In 2018, a plan for tackling this challenge was needed. The plan needed to advance the use of clean, renewable electricity in buildings, taking the place of emissions from burning conventional gas. The strategy needed to educate customers, equipment and service providers, and policy-makers on why building decarbonization was imperative and why they should act now to address the challenge.
The Building Decarbonization Coalition was conceived to unite building industry stakeholders with energy providers, environmental organizations and local governments to help electrify California’s homes and workspaces with clean energy. The Coalition partnered with Gridworks to develop the plan it needed: a Roadmap which would meet the challenge facing California head on, immediately begin to impact policy-making, and be supported by a diverse group of stakeholders. Over a four-month period, Gridworks and the Building Decarbonization Coalition worked together to meet this need using the following process:
This initiative led to a number of achievements in support of building decarbonization including:
Reaching agreement among 60 diverse Coalition member
organizations previously at odds to jointly promote building decarbonization policies.
Spawning 45 local building codes as of October 2020 in favor
of building decarbonization by California policy-leaders.
Referenced by leaders in New York, Colorado, Massachusetts,
Washington, among other states, as a catalyst to their
own local decarbonization progress.
The Building Decarbonization Coalition continues to use the Roadmap to guide its priority actions. In 2019 and 2020 Gridworks continued its partnerships with the Coalition, developing the Coalition’s Decoding Grid Integrated Buildings Report and Decoding Building Decarbonization Research Agenda.
In 2020 the Oregon Public Utility Commission partnered with Gridworks to develop a transparent, robust, and holistic regulatory planning process for electric utility distribution system operations and investments. Under the distribution system planning investigation (docket UM 2005), Commission Staff led an inclusive stakeholder process to foster shared learning on distribution system planning practices and develop a common vision and principles for distribution system planning. Gridworks supported the Commission’s success by designing and facilitating a series of 12 workshops and webinars with robust stakeholder participation, and contributing to the resulting guidelines.
Historically, utility investments in the distribution system were determined with little public engagement or oversight. Moreover, those investments were typically engineered to support one-directional flow of power and communication, and serve predictable load patterns. Over the past decade, these historic practices have been challenged as customers increasingly adopt technologies like rooftop solar and electric vehicles, while communities demand more choice in their energy future. These trends have called utilities to open their decision-making processes to the public, while challenging regulators to facilitate more transparent, robust and holistic stakeholder processes.
Over nine months, Oregon PUC Staff and Gridworks completed the following process to advance the investigation goals.
This initiative led to the following outcomes:
Broad stakeholder support for new Commission rules stemming from 12 engaging webinars
Comprehensive, staged approach to Distribution System Planning reform, adopted unanimously by the Oregon Public Utility Commission
Industry leading Community Engagement Plan, advancing equity and community needs through a new, open distribution system planning process
The outcomes fulfill the Commission’s goal of establishing a transparent, robust and holistic regulatory planning process for electric utility distribution system investment and operations.
In 2019, California’s energy agencies partnered with Gridworks to facilitate the Vehicle-Grid Integration (VGI) Working Group and advance the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and clean energy. As facilitator, Gridworks engaged stakeholders from a variety of agencies and organizations to identify and report on opportunities to use electric vehicles for cost and emissions reductions within the power sector.
In pursuit of a carbon-neutral economy, California set a goal to have 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road and 250,000 charging ports in service by 2030. The state also emphasized that accelerating vehicle grid integration would reduce costs or mitigate cost increases for all ratepayers that might otherwise emerge as a result of increased usage of EVs.
Accelerating the adoption of EVs through incentives that lower the total cost of vehicle ownership for both individual owners and fleet operators.
Reducing costs to electricity ratepayers by reducing power transmission congestion and the need for costly distribution system upgrades, as well as reducing the need to invest in new fossil-fuel electricity generation.
Incentivizing increased decarbonization of the electric sector by expanding the use of clean energy and providing renewable grid services.
Because VGI represents a historical merging of the clean transport and clean energy sectors, the Working Group needed to build consensus among an extensive group of stakeholders to realize these benefits.
The VGI Working Group engaged experts from over 80 organizations to identify the value of a wide range of VGI use cases, then to develop and vet policy recommendations. Over a ten-month period, Gridworks—together with the California Public Utilities Commission and the state’s three major utilities—led an intensive series of workshops, subgroups, dialogues, and solicitations of Working Group members.
A central challenge of VGI—the need to integrate across multiple sectors—was reflected in the diversity of the Working Group’s participants, which included electric utilities, community choice aggregators, EV manufacturers, charging providers, government leaders, and advocacy and research groups.
This initiative led to several achievements in support of Vehicle Grid Integration, including:
Identifying more than 300 different VGI use cases potentially able to provide value by 2022.
Developing 92 individual recommendations for policy actions to immediately begin realizing the value of VGI.
Assessing opportunities and stakeholder interests across a full range of sectors and applications
Influencing a comprehensive, unanimous policy decision by the California Public Utilities Commission that is strongly based on the Working Group’s results, launching California’s VGI future less than six months after the conclusion of the Working Group.
In 2019, PG&E partnered with Gridworks to facilitate discussion and collaboration among diverse stakeholders, including gas workers and environmental and consumer advocates. This assembly—the Gas Transition Group—worked together to achieve a common goal: a just, measured transition of the gas system that would protect customers from unreasonable cost increases, advance social equity, and ensure the safety of utility workers and the general public.
California’s commitment to the decarbonization of its economy by 2045 raises fundamental questions about the future of its utility gas systems, which are the source of at least 50 percent of the state’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. A 2019 analysis performed on behalf of the California Energy Commission warned that without a transition plan for a low carbon future, rates for customers remaining on the gas system could rise from about $1.50 per therm today to as much as $19 per therm by 2050. Compounding the potential for unacceptable rate increases, the lack of a transition plan for the gas system puts the security of low-income customers and critical utility workers at risk.
Prompted by these circumstances, PG&E, California’s largest gas utility, organized the Gas Transition Group and contracted Gridworks to facilitate discussion, collaboration and the development and distribution of policy recommendations.
Over a six-month period, Gridworks and the Gas Transition Group worked together to:
This initiative led to a number of achievements towards a more equitable, affordable, decarbonized and smaller gas system transition, including:
Reaching consensus among 14 diverse organizations previously at odds to jointly promote gas transition policies
Engaging more than 250 thought leaders and policymakers to promote the California’s Gas System in Transition report.
The California Public Utilities Commission adopting the primary recommendation of our report, the initiation of long-term gas system planning, through policy action in just 4 months.
With ongoing support from Gridworks, PG&E’s Gas Transition Group continues its collaboration and development of regulatory frameworks for long-term integrated gas system planning and targeted electrification, promising continued progress toward its goals.