PG&E Community Microgrid Enablement Program Helps Communities Keep the Lights on During Emergencies

Utility company PG&E has announced its Community Microgrid Enablement Program (CMEP) for permanent, multi-customer microgrids in disadvantaged service areas.

California gas and electric utility provider Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is taking a proactive step forward in the move to grid resiliency. In April, as a California Congressman introduced the House MICROGRID act, the utility announced the PG&E Community Microgrid Enablement Program (CMEP), its project for permanent, multi-customer microgrids. These microgrids will focus on “disadvantaged” areas and critical facilities, according to the company. PG&E’s stated goal is to facilitate the development of front-of-the-meter, multi-customer microgrids, though the CMEP provides tools and information for all forms of resilience solutions including behind-the-meter installations.

Many have criticized PG&E for its role in the 2019-2020 California wildfires. Its power lines have been identified as the cause of some fires, and millions of customers were left  without power via multiple blackouts.

20 CMEP grid sites by the end of 2022

In March, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the PG&E project, in which PG&E will offer financial and technical support to critical resources in areas with the highest energy resiliency needs. Each microgrid design meets the size and power needs of the community it serves, powering areas that include critical facilities like hospitals, first responders, gas stations and groceries.

Microgrid development is already underway:

  • The Redwood Coast Airport Renewable Energy Microgrid is the first recognized microgrid planned under this new initiative. This multi-customer, “front of the meter” solar microgrid with battery storage will begin operating before the end of 2021.
  • The indigenous Yurok tribe and PG&E are exploring a microgrid plan in Tulley Creek, located on California’s North Coast.

According to Natural Gas Intelligence, PG&E plans to have 20 remote grid sites by the end of 2022. The publication quotes James Noonan, PG&E spokesperson, who explains that small areas served by long distribution lines are top candidates for ignition-reducing microgrids.

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PG&E’s new microgrid enablement program is a welcome sign of change for the utility. Are you interested in a microgrid for your community?

You can find out more about how to qualify at PG&E’s resilience site and click on the CMEP Resilience Planning Guide. If your project meets the eligibility criteria listed there, contact . PG&E recommends sending as much detail as possible, including project location, objectives, customers to be served, and size and type of distributed energy resources.

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