Climate resilient energy networks
Meeting the goal set forth in the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels, will require an energy ecosystem that is resilient to extreme weather, such as wildfires and drought, while delivering reliable, affordable and increasingly low carbon energy to customers.
As we work to execute on our decarbonization roadmap, we are focused on infrastructure solutions that help maintain the resiliency and reliability of our system, while helping meet the greatest challenge of our time, climate change.
Severe weather response
Innovation is playing an increasingly critical role in the energy systems of tomorrow. That is why Sempra continues to invest in new technologies, such as microgrids, which can operate in parallel with, or independently of, the larger electric grid to keep pre-defined areas powered during emergencies. They are an important tool to increase community resiliency, especially in regions that are subject to public safety power shutoffs during extreme weather events. A pioneer in developing microgrid technology, SDG&E built America’s first utility-scale microgrid in Borrego Springs in 2013 and is currently upgrading it so that it has the capability to run on 100% renewable energy and to demonstrate green hydrogen energy storage. As the company works to add four more microgrids to help lessen the impact of public safety power shutoffs and keep critical facilities powered, it is leveraging lessons learned from the Borrego Springs microgrid.
Wildfire prevention and mitigation is a critical part of our strategy to improve the climate resilience of our infrastructure and help reduce the significant adverse health impacts and air emissions associated with wildfire smoke. SDG&E is a recognized industry leader in wildfire prevention and mitigation. The company continues to advance its wildfire mitigation efforts and is now on version 4.0 of its Fire Safe program. SDG&E openly shares its experience, lessons learned and technological advancements in weather and wildfire mitigation with other investor-owned utilities, state and federal agencies and stakeholders in the fire community, with the objective of improving wildfire prevention across California and the West.
For our infrastructure businesses, resilience of operations is critical. Extreme weather, including severe storms and hurricanes, have the potential to impact Sempra Infrastructure’s operations on the Gulf Coast. The company has engineered resilience into Cameron LNG. The facility is located 18 miles from the Gulf at a base elevation well above the 500-year flood plain with all major equipment elevated above that. Cameron LNG also was designed to handle major hurricane-force winds. That resiliency was borne out during hurricanes in 2020 and 2021, as a result of which the facility encountered minimal damage.
The Cameron LNG weather risk management and operations teams safely evacuated, shut down and restored operation of the facility in response to two back-to-back hurricanes that made landfall near Lake Charles, Louisiana, and crippled parts of the Gulf region. Following these catastrophic weather events, Cameron LNG has been working with the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge to fund projects for the restoration of educational structures and wildlife habitats. Additionally, through its annual corporate responsibility investment program, Cameron LNG is collaborating with other organizations in efforts to preserve and protect wildlife habitats, restore the coastal beach and wetland areas and support beautification efforts in surrounding communities. By beneficially using dredge soil material since construction of the regasification terminal in 2005 and continuing through the construction of the liquefaction facilities, Cameron LNG has created over 750 acres of marshland to date in Cameron Parish. Annual dredging of the berth area is expected to allow Cameron LNG to continue to create up to 7,000 acres of marshland for the life of the project. Marshlands prevent flooding by temporarily storing and slowly releasing stormwater, helping protect critical infrastructure and surrounding communities. Efforts such as these help create a vibrant and resilient ecosystem and aligns with our belief that the responsible development of energy infrastructure is compatible with environmental protection and preservation.
Severe weather can also develop quickly in Texas, and with a service territory covering nearly one third of the state, Oncor’s dedicated personnel work hard to prepare for and respond to various weather conditions. Planning occurs year-round in anticipation of a variety of potential seasonal impacts, with preparations implemented months before the hot or cold seasons begin, including:
- utilizing forecasting and predictive analytics to identify equipment for upgrades or replacement;
- performing ground and air inspections of facilities; and
- increasing storm response inventory and regularly completing staff emergency preparedness trainings.
In February 2021, Oncor, the ERCOT market and the state of Texas experienced an unprecedented winter weather event and period of short generation supply. Texas transmission and distribution utilities, including Oncor, were directed to shed an unprecedented amount of load to offset the short supply of generation, which was the cause of the vast majority of Oncor power outages throughout the course of the event. While Oncor does not own, operate or control power generation plants or facilities, the company has been working to identify innovative transmission and distribution solutions that could mitigate the impacts of, or even avoid, third-party generation-shortfall events such as occurred in winter storm Uri.
First, Oncor has begun a five-year program to expand remotely controlled voltage-reduction capabilities to certain substation transformers, with potential to enable this capability at more than 100 locations in 2022. Once complete, this program has the potential to reduce demand by approximately 500 MW during peak load conditions. Second, Oncor has established processes to spread rotating-outage burdens among a greater number of customers while still maintaining service to critical community-service and energy-generation premises. This should increase customer equity while also reducing reliability risks. More generally, Oncor has also reviewed its process for planning and building assets ahead of projected constraints, including extreme weather conditions. Oncor undertakes annual system planning assessments and seasonal preparedness studies to help ensure it has adequate facilities to support a wide range of temperatures, and in 2021, Oncor began implementing substation additions and upgrades to support an expanded temperature range, now extending from 10°F to 110°F.
Innovation is playing an increasingly critical role in the energy systems of tomorrow. That is why Sempra continues investing in new technologies, like microgrids, which can operate in parallel with, or independently of, the larger electric grid to keep pre-defined areas powered during emergencies.
Resiliency for intermittent renewable energy
As more and more renewable energy sources become available, investments in clean fuels, energy storage and microgrids will be needed to fill the gaps when wind and solar supplies are not available and to deliver energy to sectors of the economy that cannot be easily electrified, such as heavy-duty transportation and industrial sectors. SoCalGas’ resilient underground pipeline system is designed to prevent, withstand, adapt to and quickly recover from disruption. To better withstand effects of climate change SoCalGas has implemented fiber optic technology to address severe weather impacts, such as mud slides.
We believe the gas infrastructure system is poised to enhance and complement a future energy ecosystem made of clean electrons and clean molecules. In its study on The Role of Clean Fuels and Gas Infrastructure in Achieving California’s Net Zero Climate Goal, SoCalGas examines California’s energy system options to achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality. The study found that an integrated energy system comprised of renewable electricity and cleaner fuels should achieve carbon neutrality faster, more reliably and more affordably than one without cleaner fuels. According to the study, this approach offers significant renewable penetration, solutions for hard-to-abate transportation and industrial sectors, and resilient electrification.
We believe combining the strengths of clean electrons from solar, wind and hydro with the strengths of cleaner fuels like hydrogen and renewable natural gas, would deliver a reliable and affordable clean energy future for California. A cleaner fuels network leveraging existing infrastructure should help integrate more renewables on the electric grid, reduce risk and provide valuable storage and customer choice as California works to decarbonize and develop the means to scale up electrification.
In early 2022, SoCalGas announced a proposal to develop what would be the nation’s largest green hydrogen energy infrastructure system, the Angeles Link, designed to deliver cleaner, reliable energy to the Los Angeles region. As proposed, the Angeles Link would support the integration of more renewable electricity resources like solar and wind and would significantly reduce GHG emissions from electric generation, industrial processes, heavy-duty trucks and other hard-to-electrify sectors of the Southern California economy. The proposed Angeles Link would also significantly decrease demand for natural gas, diesel and other fossil fuels in the LA basin, helping accelerate California’s and the region’s climate and clean air goals.