First published in the Dec. 10 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
By Alexandra Applegate
In step with Glendale’s goal to transition to 100% clean energy by 2035, the city is looking for ways they can move away from relying on the Grayson Power Plant and reach a total zero-carbon-emission power portfolio.
At this week’s City Council meeting, staff discussed Glendale Water & Power’s attempt to identify at least 5 megawatts, but up to 50 megawatts, of local, clean distributed energy resources, or small-scale generation units such as rooftop solar panels or wind generating units that connect to an electric grid.
The utility was seeking proposals from contractors in the clean energy space that could map out a reliable way to develop and deliver clean energy in Glendale, integrated into the city’s resource portfolio. This would be in addition to GWP’s energy efficiency and demand response programs, both of which help reduce demand on the electric grid.
“I saw it a little bit like a fishing expedition,” said Ted Flannigan, president of clean energy contractor EcoMotion, of the proposal request. “We want to see what we could get from all these different sectors.” EcoMotion was hired by the city to help pin down various routes the city can take to reach its energy goals.
The city only received four proposals, two of which met all of the requirements of the request, despite receiving 24 notices from companies that they intended to submit a proposal. One qualified company proposed three options to reach 7 MW, while the other presented a way to reach more than 9 MW of clean energy.
The City Council expressed their disappointment in only receiving two qualified proposals and discussed how they can make a future proposal process more appealing to solar and battery storage companies.
Councilman Ara Najarian blamed the fact that clean energy is a relatively new industry and it may be difficult to establish a history of success to secure large-scale proposal bonds, which are required by the city to protect its assets.
“The problem here is not the city or the RFP, the problem is the industry,” said Najarian. “The industry is not mature enough and they haven’t developed enough. They haven’t specialized their business plans enough to respond to what we’re looking for as a city.”
With the council’s approval, the Proposal Evaluation Team will now work with the two finalist proposals to negotiate and establish costs and benefits. They will return to the council at a later date with a recommendation on which company to hire, if either.
“We were looking for 50 MW from the beginning. We based our whole energy plan on 50 MW. We were deciding how many units in Grayson based on how many 50 MW,” Najarian said. “It’s a great idea, it’s a great plan in theory. But when it comes to reality, we’re just not getting it.”
Though the RFP process did not accumulate the possibility of establishing at least 50 megawatts of energy capacity in Glendale, EcoMotion was also asked to report on ways utility companies across the country are finding energy efficiency and creating DERs.
“There’s lots and lots of great ideas out there to help utilities like ours go through this transition from what I consider the old standard centralized power plant model to the utility of the future, which is going to be very decarbonized and based largely on DERs throughout our community,” Flannigan said.
EcoMotion estimated Glendale could potentially provide up to 126 MW of peak capacity energy in the next five years, based on a number of assumptions and if a wide variety of commitments were made by the city and GWP customers. This amount could deliver enough energy to invalidate the council’s plan to install new gas units at the Grayson Power Plant.
“This is where I take an enormous leap,” Flannigan said. “If the stars all align, then what could we do in the next five years?”
The consultant recommended a number of ways Glendale can “create a movement” and reach its goal of ditching fossil fuels entirely. EcoMotion advocated for adjusting peak pricing, doubling energy efficiency, ramping up energy storage, meeting the city’s solar goals and creating a vehicle grid integration program.
But reaching that goal would require a heap or more resources, a pile of additional staff, an aggressive work plan and for the community to get on board.
“These are achievable numbers,” said Councilman Daniel Brotman. “Whether we achieve them is really going to depend on our culture and our capacity. As it is now, we’re just pushing it against the string. Nothing is going to happen at the other end unless we have the capacity.”
Flannigan instructed the council to identify which of the programs they find the most compelling and practical for Glendale so staff can work toward finding funding and proposing ways to integrate a similar program locally.