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03/04/2010 11:28 AM     print story email story  

Califonia News: Energy Storage Legislation, Dynamic Pricing News

A new bill introduced in the California Assembly would mandate that utilities incorporate energy storage capacity into their operations for 2.25% of daytime peak demand by 2014 and 5% of peak demand by 2020.

If passed, the bill could set a precedent, and create a boost for the energy storage industry, which ranges from pumped hydro and compressed air to utility-scale batteries and flywheels.

Assemblymember Nancy Skinner introduced A.B.2514 in partnership with California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr.,. They say it lower electricity costs and provide the state with an alternative to fossil fuel-based power generation for daytime peak demand.

Energy storage technologies can also benefit wind and solar power plants, which often rely on fossil fuels for backup.

CPUC Approves PG&E's Dynamic Pricing Plan

In a step toward establishing dynamic electricity prices for the entire state, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved new rate structures for commercial, industrial and agricultural customers of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (NYSE: PCG).

The dynamic pricing scheme will charge varying rates for peak and non-peak times. Initially there will be about a dozen peak-day events, CPUC said. Customers will be notified of these days one day in advance so that they can shift energy usage.

Beginning May 1, 2010, PG&E's large commercial and industrial customers will automatically be switched to the scheme, unless they opt out. Agricultural operations will default to the pricing system on February 1, 2011, and small and medium commercial and industrial customers will follow on November 1, 2011.

All customers using peak day pricing rates will be given bill stabilization for the first year and they will have a hedging option to reduce bill volatility.

"By providing real economic incentives to reduce electric demand during peak periods, we can increase customer involvement in managing California’s energy supply, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and manage future power plant development costs," CPUC President Michael R. Peevey said.

CARB Regulates Sulfur Hexafluoride

Califonia's Air Resources Board (CARB) this week adopted a measure to limit and monitor the emissions of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) from high-voltage electrical applications.

SF6 is a greenhouse gas approximately 23,900 times as potent as carbon dioxide (CO2). One pound of SF6 emissions is equivalent to 11 tons of carbon dioxide.

The regulation is designed to achieve a 70% reduction of SF6 emissions in electrical utility applications with a total reduction of the equivalent of 250,000 metric tons of CO2 in 2020.

“Although it is only used in small amounts, sulfur hexafluoride is the most potent of all the gases that cause global warming,” said ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols. “This is a narrowly focused regulation that will dramatically reduce California’s emissions of this industrial chemical, at a very reasonable cost.”

SF6 is a highly inert and non-corrosive gas used to insulate switches for high-voltage current applications, typically found in the transmission grid of electrical utilities. These applications constitute 80% of the state’s total SF6 emissions.

Effective January 1, 2011, the rule sets an initial emission rate at 10% of owners’ SF6 capacity. Beginning in 2012 owners of switches using SF6 must reduce emissions by 1% each year, reaching an emission rate of only 1% by 2020.

There are several emission reduction techniques currently available, including:

  • Leak detection and repair using handheld “sniffer” devices and cameras
  • SF6 collection and recycling
  • Refurbishing or replacing existing equipment

The cost of implementing this measure is estimated to be $4.5 to $7 million over the 10-year period. Consumers can expect to see this reflected with an increase of one cent per residential utility account each month, CARB said.

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