December 11, 2023

SACRAMENTO BEE OP-ED: California is updating its electric grid too slowly to meet climate goals

GridStor CEO and Richard Glick, chairman of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under President Biden, authored an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee today focused on how policy reform discussions at CAISO today need to include new responsibilities for transmission owners to speed renewable and energy storage interconnection completions. See the op-ed at and read the full text below:

“As the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference comes to an end on Tuesday, California officials in attendance are trumpeting the state’s global leadership in ambitious clean energy goals. By 2035, 90% of the electricity consumed in the state is expected to come from clean, emissions-free sources, on the way to 100% by 2045.

The good news is that there are plenty of new renewable energy and energy storage projects being planned that would enable us to achieve our goals. The bad news is that the process for connecting these projects to our electric grid takes far too long and imperils our ability to meet these goals.

California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) estimates that the state will need over 40,000 megawatts of new renewable and energy storage projects by 2032 to keep pace with fully decarbonizing the power system by 2045. That is equivalent to half of all existing power supply on the California grid today. It now takes six to eight years for battery, wind and solar projects to complete their electric grid connections. That is far too long for getting needed new resources online. It is also forcing the state to keep old, inefficient, polluting power plants operating longer while the development of new resources languishes.

Connecting new projects to the grid faster can be done. Texas, for example, typically accomplishes this in just two to three years. The Lone Star State now has more large-scale solar power facilities installed than California, thanks to its ability to connect projects quickly.

The state’s grid manager is the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). It is currently working on ways to accelerate this process. While proposed modifications for clean energy project developers might help, will not meaningfully solve California’s clean energy timeline problem.

Much of the solution lies with the California utilities who own the transmission lines that make up the grid. It is essential that transmission owners be held accountable for timely performance of building infrastructure that completes the grid connection process.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission agrees with the need to accelerate grid connections with the help of both the project developers and transmission owners. The commission recently established penalties for transmission owners that fail to complete studies by specific deadlines. But more is needed to get it right in California.

It is imperative that transmission owners supply the resources and personnel needed to keep pace with California’s clean energy transition and enable new clean energy projects to connect to the grid faster. Transmission owners who invest in staffing up should be financially rewarded based on achieving certain timeline metrics.

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed into law Senate Bill 410, which establishes deadlines for utilities to connect residential and business customers’ solar panels, batteries and electric vehicle chargers to the local electric system. CAISO can similarly start a new track in its current reform initiative focused on accelerating connections of clean electric generation and storage projects to the larger state grid, along with stronger monitoring of transmission owner performance.

It can take too long to buy key components to upgrade a grid. Today, a utility might have to wait three years to get electric transformers that are required to connect new projects. Waiting until the last minute to procure these transformers is now commonplace. Reforms are needed to allow utilities to make these investments faster so as not to jeopardize California’s wind, solar and storage projects.

The grid is our energy backbone. There is no option but to strengthen and expand this system. The time is right for fresh thinking on how to reach our renewable energy future faster.”

Richard Glick served as the chairman of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under President Biden. Chris Taylor is the CEO of GridStor, an independent power producer that recently completed its Goleta Energy Storage facility in California.