Swell Energy’s Andrew Meyer Testifies with Senator Fran Pavley for Energy Storage

by Anna Gretz
July 15, 2016

The recent, record-setting natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility is motivating some serious conversation about energy in California.

Andrew Meyer is in the thick of it. State officials are warning Southern California that there may be at least 14 days of rolling blackouts this summer. As a result, many think it’s time to revamp the way California is generating, distributing, and storing power. When it comes to energy storage, Andrew Meyer is an important voice in the conversation.

Meyer is a co-founder of Swell Energy, the leading residential energy storage provider in Southern California. Through his work with Swell, Andrew has become a thought and industry leader in the energy realm. Because of his position at the center of the industry, he was called to testify before the California legislature to support a new energy storage bill (SB 886) that would further solidify the central role of energy storage in California’s clean energy future.

Meyer was invited to testify by the bill’s author, California Senator Fran Pavley, the leading environmental voice in California’s legislature and author of major environmental legislation, including AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act. . Pavley in particular is pushing for a swift, comprehensive response to the recent crisis. “The SoCalGas leak in Aliso Canyon was a rude awakening for families living in Porter Ranch, but it also has to be a wake-up call for the state,” Pavley said. “It shows that we need to address tough questions about how we diversify our energy resources, reduce our dependence on dangerous fossil fuel facilities like this one, and move toward the clean energy future our state has envisioned in its policy.” It’s a tall order, but industry leaders way that more renewable power, energy efficiency, and the use of distributed energy storage could do the trick.

That’s what the new energy storage bill, SB 886, is all about. The bill would require the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to set an energy storage target for 2030, extending beyond the current target of 1,325 MW by 2020 set by the CPUC pursuant to AB 2514.. SB 886 would also require utilities to consider storage before natural gas plants when procuring new resources, and require utilities to implement rate structures tailored to reward the benefits of behind-the-meter storage. Meyer says that these incentives, like time-of-use rates and dynamic pricing, are a key piece.

“With dynamic, time-of-use electricity rates, everyone wins,” Meyer says, speaking from first-hand experience. “The grid operates more efficiently and cleanly, folks save money, and with a home battery, homeowners don’t even have to make inconvenient behavioral changes to benefit.” With residential energy storage, like home batteries, consumers can store electricity from the grid (or power generated from solar panels) at any time, to be made available for later use. This means that households can store energy when demand and rates are low, and use it when the majority of consumers need grid energy the most, like the early evening. If a greater number of consumers shift the time of their greatest energy demand, it could ease the load of the energy grid considerably, while giving homeowners a huge discount on their electricity bill. Innovative ideas like this one could potentially prevent a future energy crisis in California.

Senator Pavley has been working toward a focus on energy storage as well. Instead of focusing on ways to resume natural gas storage at Aliso Canyon, Pavley says it’s time to cut natural gas use, and look at other, cleaner options, like energy storage. Pavley is the senator spearheading SB 886. She says that any utilities looking to add fossil fuel-fired generation should first have to show why energy storage wasn’t a better, more economically viable option. “We rely on fossil fuel storage facilities to deliver critical energy resources for homes and businesses,” Pavley write to the Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications. Leaks like the one in Aliso Canyon demonstrate why California’s electricity system needs an overhaul. “Cleaner storage, through batteries and renewable fuels, holds the promise of a smoother load curve and less reliance on facilities like Aliso Canyon to support electricity needs in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California.”

As Andrew Meyer joins Senator Pavley in pushing for the bill, they are encountering opposition from utilities. Three major companies in California, PG&E, SCE and SDG&E have all filed objections to Pavley’s storage legislation. The utilities argue that the incentives and prioritization of energy storage systems are too similar to current incentives, and similar policies adopted within the past year. They’re worried that the new bill shows too much favoritism to energy storage over other alternatives in the utility resource plans. Meyer and Team Pavley will have to show that the proposed incentives are timely and not duplicative.

Meanwhile, SoCal’s rolling blackouts are still looming large, leaving many consumer without home batteries powerless against them.

Andrew Meyer and Swell Energy will continue to work towards a more distributed electrical grid, and a more reliable energy future.