California’s grid restrictions could exacerbate racial inequality related to solar adoption, a new study has found.
Prohibited advancement costs related to solar panels have previously created a gap between those who can and cannot integrate such pure technologies on their roofs, the authors say. However, the state’s structural limitations also reinforce these gaps, noting that blacks have been identified and have a “disproportionate grid capacity to handle renewable solar energy.”
Installation of indoor photovoltaic (PV) systems results in an increase in current flow, which leads to a higher temperature and voltage that forces the grid. As a result, the number of families able to install such systems is limited.
“Researchers in engineering literature have been studying technical barriers to deploying the sun,” says Anna Brockway, lead author and PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley.
He said we wanted to connect the two threads of the questionnaire – the fairness and the technical barriers to the current deployment – to see if we could learn anything about the adoption process.
To evaluate the consolidation limits of such “distributed energy resources” (DERs), Broweway and colleagues of California’s two largest electricity suppliers, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (S.C.) say more than 30 million people.
Although their study focused on roof solar panels, DERs are an umbrella group for all small electrical supplies spread across large areas — including equipment such as backup batteries and emergency diesel generators.
After reviewing the results alongside relevant demographic data, the authors found that the PG&E and SCE grid had only enough capacity to support less than half of their families’ photovoltaic systems – and that the capacity “would strengthen demographic diversity at the destination.” News coverage of the study.
In the PG and E states, the authors found that 39 percent of households could not access “space and water heaters” or “level-1” electric chargers — even “small energy-intensive new installations” – from EV.
In the increasingly black and disadvantaged communities, the capacity to host DERs is declining, ”the authors emphasize, noting that the link between host capacity and race is“ extremely high ”among a number of other demographic indicators.
The authors identified such a divided generation among the non-Latin white and Latin census blocking groups (CBG) compared to the black or Asian population. In the case of disadvantaged communities, the authors found differences in seeing language discrimination as a barrier to DER adoption between the rich and the poor.
“Increasing the percentage of black population is declining,” said the researchers.
As more families install solar panels and access electric vehicles, the power grids become stronger and the gap for fair DER access could widen, the researchers warned.
“If the grid limits are not taken into account, further injustice may occur,” he wrote.
Earlier, Brokeway told Hill that the California Public Utilities Commission aims to “continuously integrate equity and access ideas into clean energy transitions.”
Meanwhile, the costs associated with roof solar systems have “decreased to almost every customer in California over the past 10 years,” said Duncan Calaway, associate professor at Berkeley Energy and Resources, told The Hill.
“The challenge is to find ways to differentiate and finance different clients,” he said.
When policymakers try to help certain communities use solar energy, they say, they need to take into account the cost of grid upgrades and the “significant costs” that will increase accessibility.
He added, “Alternative approaches such as Community Sun can provide the same economic and environmental benefits to different customers, and do not require the same grid improvements.”