Below is an overview of recent updates regarding opportunities for energy microgrid development on tribal lands in California. Microgrids can provide energy resiliency and stability, especially during wildfires or other events causing major power outages in the state.
Utility Programs Under Development
Each of the three major investor-owned utilities in California – Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), and Southern California Edison (SCE) – has new plans to help tribal communities in California develop and implement microgrids and other energy resiliency projects.
Earlier this summer the Colorado Public Utilities Commission issued a decision that requires PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E to develop programs that will promote microgrid deployment and other resiliency projects, including on tribal lands. In particular, these utilities must: develop standard, pre-approved designs to interconnect resiliency projects to the grid; update their customer tariffs to better accommodate distributed energy storage and the use of storage during power-outage events; implement specific resiliency projects throughout the state; and undertake specific collaboration with tribal and local governments.
The collaboration that the utilities must undertake with tribes has many requirements:
- The utilities must conduct semi-annual workshops throughout the state to ensure the utilities and tribes are sharing valuable information and taking a collaborative approach to planning grid resiliency measures that are responsive to local needs.
- The utilities educate tribal government leaders and staff on grid investment plans in the area and must involve tribes in planning resiliency projects and actions that would affect tribal communities.
- The utilities must assist tribal governments with crafting their own energy resiliency projects.
- The utilities must create a resiliency project engagement guide for tribal and local governments that provides clear pathways for engagement with the utilities and best practices for implementing resiliency projects.
Each of 3 utilities has filed with the CPUC an overview of its initial resiliency project engagement guide, which should get approved later this year. PG&E’s proposed program, which it calls the “Community Microgrid Enablement Program,” would provide technical assistance for resiliency projects, as well as additional technical and financial support (primarily through matching funds) for microgrids that are in areas of high fire risk or otherwise could protect critical infrastructure. The proposed program also includes metrics to prioritize projects, including for those that serve tribal, disadvantaged, and low-income communities.
SCE’s proposal explains that it is expanding its existing “Microgrids for Developers” website to include information needed for tribal and local governments to understand options and best practices for resiliency projects in their areas. SDG&E has presented a proposal to support tribal and local governments with dedicated staff and resources, regularly engage with tribal and local governments, and expand its Customer Generation webpage to provide more information on resiliency projects.
Ongoing Funding Opportunities
There are ongoing and recurring opportunities from the California Energy Commission, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other entities to support microgrid and resiliency project development by tribes. If you would like us to provide more information on any of these that may be applicable to you, please let us know.