EDITOR’S NOTE: Drew Murphy of Edison International helped launch The California Renewables Rush conference recently in San Francisco. This article is the first of a three-part series extracted from his opening keynote presentation. Next: “Pivoting to a Distributed Energy World.”
Driven by state policies, California has been moving towards its renewables and clean energy goals for the last 20 years. Last year the state enacted SB-350, which Southern California Edison supported. This legislation established the latest target of 50 percent renewable electricity in the state by 2030, doubled the energy efficiency savings requirements in buildings within that same timeframe and recognized the importance of transportation electrification in achieving California’s carbon and clean energy goals.
While these goals are ambitious, we believe that the bill just extends the path we have been on for many years. In 2002, the California renewables portfolio standard (RPS) mandated a push to 20 percent renewables by 2017 and in 2011 legislation accelerating that goal to 33 percent by 2020 was passed.
Last year California sourced 24 percent of our energy from renewable sources, and an estimated 11,800 megawatts of renewable capacity has been permitted throughout California that could come on-line in the future.
And, SCE is not starting from scratch either. Our preliminary numbers from 2015 indicate that we are providing our customers with 18,300 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy, achieving a 24.3 percent RPS. The preliminary distribution of that is 37 percent geothermal, 33 percent wind, 26 percent solar, 2 percent biomass and 2 percent small hydro. We estimate that the 50 percent RPS will require us to purchase an additional 38,500 gigawatt-hours of renewables – a 110 percent increase.
To get to where we needed to be with the RPS, in addition to going out and contracting for power from renewable energy projects, we also had to upgrade our bulk transmission system and improve our infrastructure so that we could get that energy to our customers. We have built over 500 miles of transmission lines and invested in 13 new or expanded substations -- $4.8 billion of new investments in the system. With the completion of an additional $1.3 billion of transmission upgrades by 2020, SCE's total investments will enable the interconnection of 9,700 megawatts of renewable generation.
As an example, our $2.5 billion Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project is the first major transmission project in California being constructed specifically to access multiple renewable generators in a remote, renewable-rich resource area. When complete, it will move 4,500 megawatt of energy, enough energy to power 3 million homes, and its new and upgraded transmission facilities will span 173 miles. TRTP includes 3.5 miles of underground transmission lines in Chino Hills, a first of its kind engineering project in the United States.
So we’ve already come along way on our march towards meeting California’s increasing RPS goals. But, we do still have a long way to go.
One of the questions we have gotten asked quite often since the passage of SB-350 is “can the grid actually handle 50 percent renewables?”
We think it can – and our engineers and planners are spending a significant amount of time and effort looking at this to make sure we can.
Having made considerable investments in upgrading and expanding the transmission system, we are now turning our attention to what needs to be done to the distribution system to ensure that it can handle the increasing amount of distributed resources – especially rooftop solar and now storage – that is being connected to the grid.
Drew Murphy is Edison International senior vice president, Strategic Planning.