PG&E fined by CPUC, ERCOT pushing new legislation, Wind Energy Project gains in CA and Market Updates
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) has been fined $106 million by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for allegedly violating guidelines in 2019 for executing planned power outages to lower wildfire risks. The violations according to the administrative law judge (ALJ) were stated as a “failure of PG&E’s website, which was unavailable or non-functional during the majority of the duration of a PSPS event, inaccuracy of its online outage maps, inaccessibility of its secure data transfer portals to its public safety partners, and PG&E’s failure to provide advanced notification of [PSPS] events to approximately 50,000 customers and 1,100 medical baseline customers during the three PSPS events in Fall 2019.” PG&E stated that they covered $86 million of the fine through customer bill credits, therefore, the decision orders a net payment of $20 million to be paid by shareholders through credits to customers and a contribution to a statewide backup portable battery program.
February 2021 winter storm in Texas has sparked legislation requiring only natural gas generation facilities that are deemed “critical” by regulators to weatherize along with power plants and transmission lines. Senate Bill (SB) 3 estimates $4.5 billion in ratepayer-backed bonds for natural gas utilities, $2 billion for electric cooperatives in crisis-related grid services, and $800 million loaned to pay off debts to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). There would also be a requirement to implement an emergency alert system for blackouts similar to an Amber Alert which are emergency messages issued when a child has been abducted. Regulatory changes such as the number of seats on ERCOTS board to 11 from 16 and requiring members to live in Texas. A consulting firm would also be brought in to select eight out of the 11 members.
The Department of Interior (DOI), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and the Department of Defense (DOD) have agreed to lease 399 square miles off the northern coast of California for Wind Energy Area (WEA) development. The agreement identifies two sites off central and Northern California with the potential to install massive floating wind turbines that could produce 4.6 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power 1.6 million homes. Interest in offshore wind on the West Coast has grown for years, especially with California's own ambitious goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions. "This is a major breakthrough — a major advancement that will allow California to start planning for its carbon-free electricity goals with offshore wind firmly in the picture," says Nancy Rader of the California Wind Energy Association, who also pointed to the challenges. "Offshore wind development off the coast at Morro Bay and Humboldt will require a major port facility in each area to construct the floating platforms and assemble the turbines that will require continued proactive planning by the state and federal governments."