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  • Corey Lee Wilson

What’s Your Energy Usage? Good? Bad? Or Ugly?



For California’s buildings, a larger percentage (now 60% as of 2020) of the state’s energy is supplied by renewable resources and of those renewal resources solar power is by far the largest. That’s the good news!

As the transmission of energy moves from these sources to power substations, electrical energy is distributed to fill the various power needs of California’s buildings. During that process between 61% - 86% of the generated power is lost, wasted, along the way and this power supply is also imbalanced, creating power surges and sparking electrical fires. The bad news!

In addition, utilities have also increased demand charges by more than 100% over the last decade. The ugly news!

What is the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Doing About This?

California’s Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) incidences are becoming more prevalent, and back-up and energy storage power sources are more critical than ever. This includes black start systems that can restore a buildings back-up energy power system without relying on the external electric power transmission network to recover from a total or partial shutdown.

California’s utilities have long scheduled their peak hours rate, known as time of use (TOU) rates—from around 11 am to about 6 pm. These hours are when solar generation is at its highest, enabling large energy users to rely on their on-site solar power and avoid exposure to several hours of high on-peak rates.

However, the rise of solar power generation—both Behind-the-Meter (BTM) and at the utility scale—has disrupted the dynamics of the supply mix supporting California’s electric grid.

This disruption is known as the Duck Curve and utilities are adapting by shifting the 5 hour on-peak demand period to 4 pm-9 pm with changes to their TOU rate schedules.

How do These TOU Rates and Peak Time Changes Affect My Building’s Energy Needs?

The Duck Curve creates several challenges for utilities. The first is accommodating the late afternoon spike in demand. This often requires a reliance on natural gas peaker plants, which can generate power quickly but are expensive to operate on a regular basis.

Compounding the cost and supply problem is the sudden energy surge needed in the early evening that overwhelms the electrical grid, causing electricals surges, power outages, and fires up and down the state of California. Business are suffering from higher costs, unreliable demand, and mandatory power outages.

As California’s Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) incidences become more prevalent, energy storage, resource leveling, and back-up power sources are more critical than ever by helping remove facilities from the unreliability of power transmission networks and the high cost of TOU utility rates.

Can an ESS, Resource Leveling, and Black Start System Protect My Business and Facility?

Yes! They can provide BTM energy storage, lower and flatten peak energy time of usage (TOU), and provide black start capabilities, enabling building owners and operators to become their own clean virtual power (CVP) plants. To provide a black start, CVPs using smaller black start diesel generator (BSDG), can be used to start larger generators, which in turn can be used to start safely the main power station generators.

Solar energy alone doesn’t solve California’s sustainable power needs. However, by employing both solar, energy storage, UPS and back-up generators, businesses can now reduce not only their energy charges, but also address demand peaks that may occur when solar output goes down. They can also survive power black outs and avoid safety issues.

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