A few words about the net metering issue, downtown Redding’s new parking plan, and REU’s (Redding Electric Utility) solar plus battery projects. It’s a ‘connect the dots’, straw-to-gold kind of thing.
Here are the dots:
1) Two major new electric grid point loads are currently being developed downtown. One is the 166,000 square foot LEED Gold Courthouse. The other is 78 new apartments with 12,000 square feet of new commercial space downtown. Neither of these projects include power generation.
2) Redding’s new downtown parking plan…with financing options still under consideration.
3) REU’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)…REU’s 20 year planning document laying out short and long term options for Redding’s grid. Think of it as the business plan for REU.
4) Community Choice Aggregation (CCA): Community Choice Aggregation allows separate purchase/sale of energy over a host utility’s grid. While CCA is not included in Redding’s 20 year plan, it deserves attention as an alternative utility service model.
5) PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) and/or EIFD (Enhanced Infrastructure Finance Districts- Successor to Tax Increment Financing…TIF). These two financing programs would enable property owners and utilities to work together and finance utility scale renewable energy projects with long-term, low interest payment structures.
6) REU’s proposed Solar 3.0 Meters ($4mln), Energy Imbalance Market Membership ($1.4 mln), and 10 mW Solar + Battery project at Stillwater. REU’s plan for new meters will enable Time of Use (TOU) purchase/sale of renewable energy. The Energy Imbalance Market membership enables REU to buy/sell renewable energy on the energy spot market. The proposed solar + storage project will give REU experience in the world of battery stored solar energy sales. Taken together, these three ingredients enable Redding utility customers to take advantage of emerging opportunities within the green energy sector.
Here’s a combination worth considering:
a) REU becomes a Community Choice Aggregator, supplying TOU meters (time metered and valued generation), connecting to the Energy Imbalance Market (time metered and valued sales), while adding utility scale battery storage.
b) In addition to the Stillwater 10 mW solar + battery project, new battery storage is placed at the switching station near the overpass on Eureka Way…close to the two new point loads. Minimal transmission system upgrades would be necessary.
NOW COMES THE MAGIC:
c) The Aggregator with batteries (REU) purchases locally generated renewable solar (every rooftop…downtown parking lots, commercial and residential buildings). Rooftop solar pricing would make it economically rational for both government and building owners to invest in solar. How to pay for downtown parking? Add solar + battery!
d) The Aggregator sells renewables to: Courthouse and Downtown Meters: These sales contracts serve as collateral and security for financing; AND
e) The Aggregator sells battery stored renewables during the high demand 4-7 P.M. window on the Energy Imbalance spot market…making money.
f) Finance tools (PACE and EIFD) provide capital: no down payment, low interest, long repayment = profitable cash flows. Finance 100% of these projects.
How feasible (profitable) for Redding is utility scale battery storage and excess power sales? REU recently selected the solar + battery option out of 8 options evaluated (See Option A, Solar Plus Storage, in the IRP). Option A is a 10 mW Stillwater Park solar farm plus 10 mW battery, operational in 2021, along with TOU meters ($4 mln) and Energy Imbalance Market software ($1.4 mln).
A feasibility study for the solar + storage option exists. That study predicts summer statewide brownout potential in coming summers. Spot market renewable energy will be valuable. Early adopters of utility scale renewable energy will be financially rewarded IF they can access the Energy Imbalance Market. REU can.
How does the magic work?
The Aggregator (REU) turns ‘behind the meter’ rooftop solar into ‘front of the meter’ qualified renewable portfolio standard (RPS) energy! That’s valuable stuff, and REU has necessary talent and assets to realize the potential. Behind the meter solar into front of the meter renewable energy for sale on the spot market…that’s the magic, straw to gold.
How does one begin to even discuss this option?
Start with ‘The Vision’: Redding…the solar implementation capital, using existing financing tools, parking structure solar and new local point load cash flows to secure cost effective, locally generated renewable energy to power both the building and the transportation sectors! That’s big scale production, requiring a public/City partnership featuring transparency, collaboration and inclusion.
The Big Change: REU becomes an investment center, not a profit center. That simple language is needed at the council level to steer the ship of state onto another direction, one that embraces fast changing energy markets.
Redding has a long history as an energy entrepreneur. Let’s continue in that vein.