Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) are alternatives to investor-owned utility energy supply systems in which local entities aggregate buying power of individual customers within a defined jurisdiction in order to secure alternative energy supply contracts.
In California, CCAs are currently pursuing short- and long-term contracts with a variety of power suppliers to meet the energy needs of customers. This can be easier said than done – CCAs have significant hurdles to jump when it comes to procuring local, renewable energy that is reliable, resilient, and cost effective.
California native and Stem’s Vice President of Product Marketing, Mary Cauwels, recently answered the most pressing questions surrounding the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) wholesale market, the implications for CCAs, and how Stem’s intelligent energy storage services and software have helped CCAs procure renewable energy with a resilient energy solution.
Q: What is the current situation with CAISO and CCAs when it comes to energy storage?
CCAs are committed to achieving their energy goals utilizing local energy projects and resources as much as possible.
Stem is very aware of the renewable energy, supply, and reliability resource adequacy (RA) requirements and needs that CCAs face. To meet these needs, CCAs are broadly procuring solar plus storage and standalone front-of-the-meter energy storage systems (ESS) across California.
Turning to energy storage makes sense – think of it like a Swiss Army knife: it can solve a number of requirements and achieve wholesale benefits, including RA and capacity, and in certain cases, there are customer benefits such as reliability, resiliency, and other related local grid benefits.
When it comes to storage, we’re seeing a lot of interest and direction to procure locally sited storage projects in or near CCA service territories.
Q: What are some of the major issues that CCAs face?
While CCAs are effectively procuring energy resources, they still have a pretty big mountain to climb as far as actually signing contracts, bringing resources online, and then achieving optimal operation. CCAs appreciate project developers and partners like Stem with expertise to streamline this entire process.
Procurement is not the only challenge for CCAs – resilience is also at the top of the list. CCAs are currently vulnerable to Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) and natural shutdown events due to high winds, risk of California wildfires, and other disasters. California also has various pockets of the grid that face persistent weather-related shutdowns.
By procuring local, renewable energy like battery storage that can operate independently from the main grid – which is essential to maintaining availability during a PSPS – can be accomplished by using the ‘island’ mode of a microgrid solution.
Q: What is an ideal situation for CCAs when it comes to energy storage?
Ideally, CCAs will see the most economical value when they can pair locally sited renewable energy and storage resources with resources from outside their service territory as needed.
This, in turn, would allow a CCA to give their ratepayers the best economic value on the wholesale energy markets while providing required reliability and resiliency benefits.
It’s really about meeting a number of related objectives by taking advantage of intelligent procurement and operation of energy storage.
Q: What are the benefits of working with Stem for CCAs?
Stem and our partners are able to scope, propose, and deliver the best and highest volume of distributed, local energy projects from the most economical storage projects.
CCAs are small organizations, and we understand they are not development organizations. So, if Stem knows a CCA has a need for, say, X amount of megawatts, then Stem can work with our partners to help bring forward the best projects and sites for that CCA in their service territory.
When the project becomes operational, Stem’s ESS – run by our intelligent Athena® AI software – can ensure that the battery provides the best benefit for the CCA’s ratepayers that earns the most money in the wholesale market.
When working with Stem, CCA’s don’t have to worry about optimizing the battery for the most value or integrating with the scheduling coordinator, that’s all set up through Stem’s ESS.
Stem is a global leader in AI-driven energy storage systems, with more than a decade of experience partnering with organizations and developers and 1.4GWh across 950+ sites operating or contracted. We helped create California’s energy storage market and remain a leading storage provider to the state’s C&I customers.
Learn more about Stem’s smart energy storage services in CAISO here (PDF).