Angelina Galiteva has been appointed Chair of the California Independent System Operator’s Board of Governors in 2020, after a decade spent on the Board as a member.
Angelina is the founder & Chair of the Board of Renewables 100 Policy Institute. She is also a Renewable Energy Expert Speaker at the US Department of State.
Angelina’s carer in energy started in 1994 when she was a Power Services Analyst at the New York Power Authority. In 1997 she became an Executive Director at the LA Department of Water and Power. Angelina has experience in private sector as well - in 2003 she founded NEOoptions, a renewable energy and new technology product design firm.
Angelina is a lawyer by education: she holds a J.D. and LLM Degrees, with a specialization in Environmental and Energy Law
Convo: Angelina Galiteva, Chair of Board of Governors of California Independent System Operator (April 2021)
Angelina Galiteva - 100% Renewables - SC-RISE Solar Valley Complement Video Series (September 2020)
Click here for Edited Highlights
Michael Liebreich: Before we start, if you're enjoying these conversations, please make sure that you like or subscribe to Cleaning Up, it really helps other people to find us. Cleaning Up is brought to you by the Liebreich Foundation and the Gilardini Foundation. Hello, I'm Michael Liebreich and this is Cleaning Up. My guest today is Angelina Galiteva, she's the Chair of the Board of the California Independent System Operator. That's the organization that runs the transmission grid in California. She's been on the Board since 2011 and in 2020, was elected chair by her fellow board members. Please welcome Angelina Galiteva. So, Angelina, welcome to Cleaning Up.
Angelina Galiteva: Thank you for having me, Michael, great to be here.
Michael Liebreich: It's a great pleasure to see you. It's been some time and obviously we've had this terrible pandemic. So, neither of us have been travelling. I'm trying to remember the last time we met. I think I came to visit you in California.
AG: Yes, you came to the ISO, we had a great visit and you enjoyed touring our control center, I remember.
ML: That's right, I did visit the control center. Is it called the ISO control center or CAISO? So the California independent system operator, correct?
ML: Correct. Yes, or the ISO which is the independent system operator, we usually call it the ISO because we are in California. And we know that it's the California ISO.
ML: And I'll tell you one of my takeaways when I visited that control center. So, we're going to have to sort of help the audience to imagine this, some will be watching the video, some will be listening on the podcast, in fact, more on the podcast. And there's this kind of mezzanine with a glass screen in front and you look down into the control room. And there's all these huge screens and little clusters of people very calmly, contemplating this, almost what looks like an almost fully automated system. But it looks really complicated. I mean, it's a lot of computers. And one of my takeaways was, I bet it's not always that calm. And another one was, I bet they don't have this amount of technology in lots of the developing world where they're trying to, you know, also integrate lots of variable renewables and all these complicated things. But not everybody has the incredible resources of the CAISO, right?
AG: That's true. And you do need to have real time operations and the more renewables that you have on the grid, you notice probably on the far right, there were two desks just dedicated to weather forecasting. And they're so proud of themselves, because they basically do not make any errors, they can predict when a cloud cover is coming, and how much production for solar systems will go up or down depending on cloud cover where it is, or when wind picks up or the wind goes down. So, it's really exciting., I think their goal is to have a less than 1% error rate. They claim that they're much more much more precise than the weather channel.
ML: So now we're going to come back to some of the times when they may not be looking quite as calm as the day that I visited. Before we do that, let's just take a step back and say, what is it that the CAISO actually does. This is the system operator. But what is it that it does? What is its job? And what are its metrics?
AG: The California is so we're set up to operate the California grid. So, it covers the California grid. And it also operates the real time market and the wholesale market for energy sales throughout California, but in the last years, because we're so good, and we're so able to integrate renewables and we're such leaders, we decided to also launch a voluntary market, which is the energy imbalance market and open it for partners throughout the west to join in and optimize the operation of their system. So, California now operates 82% of the Western wholesale market in real time, which is really very exciting. And we're looking forward to launching into the day ahead market too, so that we can optimize even more. Shortly we'll complete RTO, or a regional transmission operator, this is the next best thing. So, we want to be able to capture the benefits of the market and integrate more renewables and the result has been decarbonization throughout the west, which is very exciting.
ML: Okay, so there's a lot there. Let's unpack a few of those points that you've made, because first of all you talked about so you've got the California, the California grid, but then you also talked about the western region. So are how many grids are there in the western region?
AG: There’s separate balancing authorities. So in the western region, there's 38 balancing authorities. It's like a balkanized system. And each and every one of them is balanced separately with demand and supply. So having an energy imbalance market allows you to be able to integrate those systems and a larger footprint. So you can balance across a larger geographic area. And that's optimize operations where you don't need as much reserves. So, it becomes easier for everybody to operate.
ML: Each of those 38 has got some renewables going up and down. So it's got some variability on the supply side. And in fact, power stations, maybe, you know, switching on and switching off either planned maintenance, unplanned variable renewables, and then you've got demand, which is all over the place, because you've got all sorts of stuff going on and Super Bowl halftime, everybody opening the fridge and putting the kettle on and so on. And 38 different groups are doing the same thing, the California ISO does. And then and then your kind of you've kind of clicked up a layer and you're also helping to manage imbalances between those, is that right?
AG: Correct, correct, and to have better integration with their partners. And that helps balance the system. But it also helps with reliability, because as you may remember, Texas had a big problem, because they're completely isolated, an isolated grid, that doesn't have any interaction with their neighbors. So they weren't able to call on anybody when they had the trouble that they had this last winter. And one of the lessons learned from Texas is you need better integration with your neighbors. The small pieces of Texas that were integrated with the neighboring grids actually fared quite well. But the rest of them couldn't really fall on anybody in order to balance the system within their territory. And they did that because they didn't want to have federal regulation. Texas wants to be its own state.
ML: Okay, well, California does a bit of that as well. We'll talk about standards, maybe if we have time. But wouldn't it be easier if you just got rid of those 38 separate operations, and had a single sort of technical operator and a single market and one organization just doing it all and are you bound to say, well, of course…?
AG: Well, yes, of course, it would be easier. And that's what, you know, the long term vision was that you would have separate different RTLs throughout the United States, and that they would be able to operate sort of almost a national grid. I mean, if we had a backbone national grid, we could plan 100% renewable portfolio standard for all of the United States, we don't have a national grid in the United States, but if we were able to have a west-wide integrated grid, of course, it would make operations much easier, because you will be able to do transmission planning for the whole region. Right now, each area does its own transmission planning, which is a key component to ensuring that you have even greater integration, and you can optimize to the greatest level. So, we were not doing it in one step, we tried, it's not going to happen in one step, we're going to do it incrementally, but each step brings benefits. So, the energy imbalance market has resulted... We launched it in November of 2014, and have netted about 8.4 billion in benefits for all of the customers who participate. So, it's a voluntary market, it's very easy. The threshold is pretty low in terms of cost. And you're able to start achieving benefits right after almost year one of operations. So, everybody's been really happy. And the customers actually have been eager to say, okay, we want to go to the next step. We want to go to that day ahead market, we want fuller integration, we want greater benefits, and if you don't give it to us, we're going to start looking somewhere else. So now we have a competitor.
ML: Okay, but just let's have a look at the you talk about the day ahead market. Again, our audience, some will know all of this, so I’ll apologize to them in advance, but many won't. So right now, what you're doing is helping those 37 other ISOs, system operators, if they get caught short of capacity, or if they've got too much, you sort of make a market, but you're doing it in real time. You're doing it …
AG: Real time: 15 minute, five minute, yes, hour ahead. Yes.
ML: 15-minute, five-minute, hour ahead. So it's a very, it's like it is in financial terms it's the spot market. But you know, want to do a futures market. So, somebody can say, well, the wind is going to be low, and we're going to need to buy in, so they should be able to provision ahead, is that right?
AG: Correct, for the day ahead market and then you can plan for your day ahead operations and figure out how much energy you have to allow to participate in the market or not or how much you need. And then you're able to run a much more efficient market and hopefully have greater benefits.
ML: Okay, and you've reached on the California ISO, what percentage of variable renewables or what percentage of renewables and variable renewables have you reached?
AG: Well, I, we have a very exciting announcement, because this month, we were actually able to reach 95.4% operation with renewables on the grid. It was instantaneous, for a few minutes, it wasn't for the whole day. But it was a remarkable record, because this shows that it can be done. We're very close to 100%. I mean, 4%, short, 4% or 5% short. But it's very difficult to do it 24 hours, 365 days.
ML: But it's already a big achievement just to do it instantaneously. Because a lot of people said, Oh, well, there's no inertia, you these big spinning machines, which provide right through a voltage fluctuations on as soon as you switch them off, you're going to get transients, you're going to get things starting, sparks flying and so on. But that that didn't happen.
AG: No, it didn't happen, though the system ran, we operated reliably, and we were able to ride through it quite nicely. So yes, you can operate on large percentages of renewables, almost 100%. And that was a huge achievement. We have about 35 to 40% renewables on the grid now, pretty much at all times. But our biggest challenge is the end of the day, when we are ramping up, solar is going down, we're ramping up, and that ramping and flexibility is provided by gas power plants, and peaker plants, which are increasingly going to be used less and less and less, but we still need them. So that portion has to be decarbonized. And that's where the focus is. And that's where our weakness on the system is right?
ML: Well, I was gonna say, of course, because last year, you quite famously had some power outages, right?
AG: Oh, yeah, a couple small ones (laughing). Yes, we did.
ML: But again, this is, you know, it's fascinating to talk to you because your role in California. And California is seen as a postcard from the future quite widely. But nobody quite can work out, whether it's a sort of nightmare postcard, or whether it's a dream postcard, because the opponents of renewable energy will say, you know, look how foolish they did all these things and then they have these power cuts, obviously, because variable renewables because the sun doesn't shine at night, which they should have been able to, to forecast. And of course, the fans of renewables will say, nothing to see here we have Jigar Shah, on one of the episodes, it was actually episode nine, saying, well, but you know, for all sorts of reasons that could easily have been much better managed, we could have used more demand response, we could have interconnected more. And so, you know, your take… if you think it's because of the renewables, you're taking the wrong lessons away. So which is it?
AG: It's definitely not because of the renewables. And I would like to say that it's a postcard of the future, which is very positive. And even though we had those small outages, which were due to the ISO, one was about 20 minutes, one was about an hour and a half for a couple of 100,000 customers, that got a lot of press. But if you're looking at operating the system, it's within the parameters of operating a very reliable, and whether fossil-based system or any other kind of system. It wasn't the renewables that were the problem. There were some issues with our software in terms of overcounting some capacity we have. So we've increased our margins from 15% to 17.5. We didn't have enough flexibility and storage because this did happen after 5pm, which is the ramp, going upwards. It was a very hot day. It was hot throughout the west, so we couldn't count on imports that were not under contract to really come in, because Las Vegas was 120 degrees. But Portland, Oregon was 105. So everybody needed the power, there wasn't as much excess power throughout the west. So highly unlikely heatwave that covered all of the west and actually strained resources. And also, demand response didn't show up as much as we could have expected them to show up. They did come in in a very large way, but we expected a little bit more. And frankly, what pushed us over the edge was a 400-megawatt power plant not coming online and taking an unscheduled outage.
ML: That was a gas power plant.
AG: Correct. It wasn't renewables that did it. It was a power plant that just it's, you know, it and wind died. So, it was a lot of factors that came in. However, this summer, we have 2000 megawatts of new battery capacity coming in, lithium iron. So, we're going to have another additional 2000 megawatts we can count on specifically from the 4pm to 9pm hours, which are going to be the critical ones. And we believe that is going to give us a huge advantage. Plus, we've also adjusted some of our <inaudible> to ensure that we can meet local capacity and demand before we start exporting, because even during that time, we were also exporting. California is an importer, but we also export to our neighbors. So there were a lot of factors going on a lot of lessons learned, I believe we're in much better shape for the summer. But it was it… one thing we know for sure, it was not renewables that did it.
ML: Okay, look. In Texas, you can really say, well, it wasn't renewables, because yeah, some wind tripped out. But it was really minor, and the grid was not really counting on it, it was really counting on a lot of gas, and then the gas tripped out. And that was the big problem.
AG: And the coal.
ML: And the coal. And so that's my kind of, you know, that's my kind of thumbnail sketch of Texas. But you know, what you've got going on in California, you keep on… you've got these targets for renewables, which are, you know, which are very aggressive for 2030 and beyond. And that's compressing the number of hours that the gas plants operate, so they become less and less profitable. And then they get shut down, and you've also shut down the nuclear. So, you know, and then when it breaks you say, it wasn't us. It was it was the gas, it was the gas, you know, they should have been more reliable. Is that really fair, in your in your heart of hearts. Is that really fair?
AG: Well, you know, we're repowering <inaudible> through power plants. So we have brand new peaker plants as well. So it's not like they're old clunkers that we're relying on, we're relying on good gas plants to be able to provide that energy. But I get your point, it is true, we're going to have gold plated gas turbines that are going to operate very few hours throughout the day, even throughout the year. So then the next question is, does it make sense to operate them on gas, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power as their repowering, their <inaudible> power plants who basically decided that they're going to repower them with hydrogen, and then they're going to be looking for the next fuel to come in and power those turbines, whether it's a blend to begin with and then transition to 100% hydrogen, but the idea is to decarbonize the fuels because if they're not going to be operating as long, you know, 24/7, we don't need them for baseload necessarily that they’re for flexibility and backup and providing ancillary services, then why not invest in a fuel that actually is going to contribute to cleaning up the environment and decarbonizing as well?
ML: And will that hydrogen come from California? Because right now, if you drive a Toyota Mirai, my favorite car brackets not then it's fueled with as we discovered during the during the Texas problem is actually fueled with hydrogen from Texas. And actually, not clean hydrogen, we're talking about grey or fossil hydrogen, right?
AG: Well, I know, I know, we have to give it we have to provide green hydrogen. And I think they have an initiative that they've just launched HiLA that basically focuses on bringing in green hydrogen using that excess energy. Because in the middle of the day, oftentimes, we're just curtailing, we have exccess energy that we don't even have enough markets around us to push it into. So taking out curtailed energy can be utilized to make hydrogen as well,
ML: Except that the economics on that is horrible. I mean, if you want to have hydrogen electrolyzers, and only run them at midday, because you have this famous thing called the duck curve where the demand drops, like the belly of a duck, then the neck is the difficult bit. That's the bit that made your grid fall over, isn't it? But if you just want to run your electrolyzers, you know, at the belly of the duck time, then they're going to be very, very capital… I mean, that the capital cost of running an electrolyzer just for a few hours a days is horrible, isn't it?
AG: The objective is to bring it to $1.50.
ML: So that's $1.50 per kilo of hydrogen.
AG: Yes, yes. And then it becomes cost effective. So the goal is to get there in the next five to seven years. So that's the objective.
ML: In California? I will celebrate with you willingly if you can get there in five to seven years in California, because…
AG: That’s the objective of the initiative launched in LA and they had a big launch last week and everybody is behind it, you know, it's good to have strong goals and high goals and hopefully you achieve them. So far you know, we've been, we've had a pretty good track record.
ML: Yeah, so the lowest cost that I've heard for kind of current plans that are approaching final investment decision is about $2.50 per kilo, and that's in the Gulf where they've got very good sun and very good wind. So, it's going to be very challenging, I believe. Again, look, I'm a big fan of experience curves and costs will come down, but five to seven years to get to $1.50 in California that would be that would be going some
AG: That's what I saw presentation from NEL, the electrolyzer manufacturers as well. That's their objective. If you're at scale.
ML: Electrolyzer manufacturers promising, very low cost hydrogen, what could possibly go wrong?
AG: Nothing (laugh).
ML: Why don't you ask them to buy some electrolyzers at the price that will guarantee that those that hydrogen costs given the electricity costs that you're likely to have?
AG: I'm sorry?
ML: Well, if you know what the electricity cost is likely to be wind and solar in California in five or seven years, perhaps you can calculate what the electrolyzer cost is and, and make them sign the contract for that price.
AG: Maybe, maybe we could, but you know, we're looking at electricity costs. And even though our bills are not that large, in California people, some people pay larger bills, but typically, my bill isn't that big. Um, however, the per kwh cost is 39 cents a kilowatt. So it's pretty high kilowatt hour cost based on infrastructure. So I'm sure that we're all well used to paying a surcharge for certain things to operate the grid. And this is certainly, I mean, hydrogen is, is both the storage fuel and fuel, and it provides so much flexibility in being able to decarbonize industry as well. So, we're looking forward to having that avenue available.
ML: I'm a big fan, I guess and one of the things I get involved in these arguments about where hydrogen makes sense, which is very much in industry, and also for long term storage for this ride through. I'm very skeptical about it in transportation, but that's a different topic. The but the, I think, really, although I'm being mischievous about your about the electrolyzer costs and what NEL will actually sign up for but to be honest, if all you're doing is riding through a few hours here and there frankly, it doesn't matter whether the hydrogen is $1.50, or $2.50, or $3, because you're not using much of it.
AG: That's true. That is true. And actually, the first project that LA is launching is in Utah, it's not even in California, the Inner Mountain project, which is being repowered, currently running on gas, but you can also run on hydrogen, they're installing wind and solar farms right around it, they'll store it in the salt caverns right, close to the power station and start operating on hydrogen as soon as it's feasible. So, it's already starting to happen.
ML: But you're around, you're 35% plus or minus of renewables. Now, your goals are to get to 100%. Is it 100%? No, it's 100% clean Energy, not 100% renewables isn't it?
AG: By 2045. It's because how we define renewables? Large hydro doesn't count as renewable, we limit hydro to 35 megawatts to count as renewable. So, if you bring in the hydro power, especially from the Pacific Northwest, and for Hoover Dam, and we want it to count towards clean, so therefore, it's clean.
ML: And what about nuclear? Because that's more controversial, right?
AG: It's pretty controversial. I mean, you saw what happened with the San Onofre power plant, we had a leak right after it was upgraded to the tune of $700 million. And it needed to be shut down because it was infeasible to fix that leak. And we're now looking at Diablo Canyon, and Diablo Canyon is scheduled to be retired within the next few years. There are some noises being made to keep it online. It's baseload. It’s system power, it doesn't provide us the flexibility that we need or the security that we need in terms of operating the grid. So, what is a much more exciting prospect and with the Biden announcement that they're going to support California with offshore wind is to build offshore wind right off the coast and bring it in through a cable into the infrastructure and into Diablo Canyon, the last nuclear power station and then use the system infrastructure that already exists to push that power throughout California. And incidentally, offshore wind coincides very nicely with the duck curve because it picks up in the evening. And it will provide us that additional flexibility and the ramp up resources that we need. So we're looking forward to that coming online.
ML: Okay, so you're going for 100% clean energy, clean electricity.I’m trying to think you also have 100% clean energy target in California, but that's not your department, right?
AG: Yes, well, they're also decarbonizing some of the you know, uses for gas. But that's not our department. That's the California Energy Commission. We work with them but we'll just provide them the electricity.
ML: Industry and heating and so on. Yeah. Okay. So, we'll stick with the electricity although of course, you could be getting huge amounts of new demand, potentially onto the California ISO if, leaves gas and goes to electricity that could get kind of exciting, could it not?
AG: It could, we're looking at probably demand doubling in the next few years. As we start to electrify across the board or as the Energy Commission likes to say electrify everything, which makes the gas company very nervous.
ML: Indeed, and so and so it should, it's the right thing to do. So, 2045 now you've got the president, who says, no, no, no, no, no, California, you may have been way out there and ridiculously over ambitious. But you're not ambitious enough. Actually, the year is 2035.
ML: Are you starting to respond to that? I mean, because presumably, the only people who are going to know how to get the California ISO to zero or to a clean system by 2035, is yourselves.
AG: Correct. And we are starting to think about that whether it should be a mandate because our mandate is 2045. And that is aligned with the decarbonization goals of SB32, as well, which is, you know, 80% below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions. So, we're looking for ways to accelerate that, and what would enable us to reach that goal faster? And so certainly harnessing demand response.
ML: I don't have a klaxon here for acronyms, but I'm going to get one I think. SB 32. That was the law. That was a Senate Bill 32. That's a bill that went through in which year roughly?
AG: Hmm, I'm not exactly sure.
ML: I think it was about six or seven years ago.
AG: Yeah. 2015. Yeah, somewhere there, yeah.
ML: That demands that California gets to 80% reduction on 1990.
AG: Below 1990 levels on greenhouse gases.
ML: By when?
AG: By 2045
ML: Also, now, the main thing is to shoot for net zero by 2050. So that's five years before but you're still gonna have 20% left.
AG: We can always change, we can always change, we can always make the goal more ambitious.
ML: Let me give you an example from the UK, which is very interesting, because we actually had the goal under the Climate Change Act was 80% reduction from 1990 by 2050. And we have, that's very much enshrined in law in the UK, the Climate Change Act of 2008. One of our Cleaning Up guests, Baroness Bryony Worthington actually, was the lead author on that act. She was the guest somewhere out I think, Episode 26. But what happened is that act, the goal was recently upgraded to be net zero by 2050, from 80% reduction to 100% reduction, and the Climate Change Committee who are the kind of referees, they then calculated the costs and because of the trends in the cost of electric transportation, renewable energy, etc, etc, energy efficiency, they actually said it would cost no more to go to 100% than a few years before they had said it would it would cost to get to 80% reduction.
AG: Well, that is interesting, because everything that I hear is that those last 10%, 5% are the most difficult to achieve, and the most expensive. So it’d be interesting to see where are they getting the numbers.
ML: It might be a good case study for you to take a look at, particularly if you know if the president is going to demand next, a plan for net zero 2050. And for presumably, that will mean pulling forwards the electrification net zero to 2035.
AG: Especially transportation, because 43% of our greenhouse gases in California are transport related. So, we really need to decarbonize the transportation sector.
ML: Now, were you involved at all, you or CAISO, in this kind of tug of war between California and Washington during the last administration under President Trump, of whether you're allowed to push your own transportation fuel standards.
AG: Not really, the ISO wasn't as involved, it was more the California State Government and the Air Resources Board. But clearly, we're able to have our own fuel standards, we're able to have our own vehicle standards, California always has had them and we have always been more stringent than the rest of the states. And the rest of the states kind of follow in our footsteps a few years later, but we do have an executive order that requires that no more sales of internal combustion engines after 2035. So, there's going to be a rapid decarbonization in the transportation sector, we might even have to accelerate it, which means more charging infrastructure, which means the ISO needs to get involved to ensure that the charging happens at the right time and we're not stressing the grid, especially in the evening time when we explore and we're experiencing that net peak timeframe. So, we've got to ensure that people charge according to the requirements and the availability of the grid kind of the demand follows the availability of renewables.
ML: Right, it must be kind of an odd role to be in as the California ISO, because you got politicians that make all these statements, whether it's accelerating, going for 2035, or whatever it is, or whether it's saying, oh, California is not allowed to ban this or not allowed to make its own standards. And whatever happens, if it goes wrong, you're going to be blamed, right? If there are power cuts, it's definitely your fault, not anybody else.
AG: Well, we're getting blamed for the power cuts that happen for the public safety shut offs, right because of the fires. And the utilities actually do that and the utilities control it. And our job is to make sure that we minimize the impact to the extent possible within that utility service territory. But it's a power shut off, and it's a blackout. And customers don't know the difference. So of course, the ISO is always the one where they say, oh, well, you caused all of these blackouts, which were quite a few in terms of public safety shut offs, but you know, we get blamed for it as well.
ML: Okay, now let's talk about those fires, because a very tragic fires with considerable loss of life. And they were proven to have been caused by sparks by, I think the transformers every so often, you know, one of them will blow up and if the trees are too close, and if there's too much, if the forests have not been appropriately raked, then there's a fire risk. And that's very, I mean, that that is that is how it happened, is it not?
AG: Yes, well, it could be a transformer, it could be just a power line, because power lines due to heat tend to sag down. And if they touch a branch, there you have it, a fire.
ML: They touch each other or they touch a branch…
AG: There you go, it happens and so if you have high winds, especially, you know, high temperatures and high winds, and if the throughways for the transmission lines haven't been maintained properly, and there's branches that are where they shouldn't be, which also happens, or you have a spark. Um, it's a tinderbox. And in the forest, it's very difficult to maintain.
ML: And I joke about raking, because that was a…
AG: That was President Trump.
ML: But the point is that that the way to avoid this is maintenance is actually cutting back, clearing forests away, making sure that your equipment is maintained. And in the case of the worst fires, PG&E had simply not done that. Is that is that fair?
AG: Well, they have I mean, they do maintain, it's not fair to say that they didn't maintain this this. Nothing is 100% exactly all the time. I think what we need to be able to focus on is yes, public safety shut offs are useful, but minimizing the territory, that kind of decided to turn the power of wholesale. And then in order to turn the power back on, you have to inspect every single line, you actually have to walk every single line, which took a couple of days. So, people without power for a few days, when the public safety shut off, actually was only a few hours. So, it took it took time to deenergize the lines for some time. So that was probably not the smartest thing to do. I think they're becoming much more surgical in how they're going to be deploying the public safety shut offs, where they absolutely need them, because a lot of people were upset last year and said, you're crying wolf. And maybe they did, maybe they didn't have 2020 hindsight, you never know. But they're also increasingly going to have to focus in being able to island out those communities that are out in the forested areas, and to deploy micro grids and technologies that allow them to basically island out from the transmission lines, yet be able to have enough power where they are in order to be able to be safe, and allow those safety shut offs to happen. I think what we're going to be seeing in the next few years is the ability to have micro grids throughout California that are able to island out, and that will also help in stress conditions where due to climate change we may see more heat events like we did last year. So that if you're able to, you know, island out 2000 or 3000 megawatts throughout the state, with energy efficiency, with DER and with microgrids and storage and are able to operate independently from the grid. That also makes us much more resilient not only in stress grid conditions, but also through natural disasters.
ML: Okay, I didn't I don't have my klaxon but DER is distributed energy resources. So yeah, the local solar maybe some local wind connected to the distribution grids, anything else that you can do and of course batteries for storage. Just back backing up just to make sure that people are following when you talk about the public safety shutoffs. So, this is when the utility for instance, a, PG&E says, well, we're expecting high temperatures and high winds, it's going to be dangerous conditions. So rather than risk starting a fire, we're just going to do a power cut, we're actually going to impose the power cut, and thousands or even 100,000s of homes, then wait for the weather to change before they can get the power back. And of course, people get incredibly annoyed.
AG: Yeah, they deenergize the lines and then to energize them again, they have to inspect them and that takes time.
ML: And then when you talk about islanding, for clarity, that would be saying, well, we can shut off this, this high voltage line, but the people can still get power because they've got a big battery locally, and they can ride through. Yeah, they maybe have a micro grid with some local DER, distributed energy resources, to continue to run their lives. And this becomes ferociously important, does it not when transport is electrified as well, because it's one thing to say, well, there's a power cut, but if there's an emergency, you can still get the ambulances in and out, you can do public safety with the police cars can still run. But if you really have electric transportation, and you have these power cuts, for whatever reason, doesn't it become very, very brittle, the whole situation socially, I mean, the risk of something bad happening, really ramps up, does it not?
AG: Not necessarily, because with distributed energy resources, like we said, if you have solar all over the place, and you have it on people's homes, too, we have 10,000 rooftops coming online every month in California. So, a lot of our resources for solar are behind the meter in people's homes or in businesses. So, if you have a combination of solar and a battery, so what if the power goes down? You still have the solar, you have the battery, you can charge the you can charge the vehicle. Indeed, you can use the vehicles battery as a resource of energy as well, in the evening, and many people do that as additional security. So, we see that as an added level of resiliency, much more so than an added level of problems. Again, the issue is making sure they're charged at the right time.
ML: I think that's what I was gonna say, I think that's right, if there's planning so that you have enough resources locally to do the island to fulfil the demand. And then of course, the digital management of it all has to work.
AG: Yes, it does. Yes, I completely agree, planning is going to be very, very important in terms of how we decarbonize and bring in the transportation sector. And we've learned one lesson is that you need to have a variety of resources, you cannot be just solar-centric, 100% solar, for your renewables, you've got to balance renewables with renewables, whether it's going to be hydro, whether it's going to be wind, whether it's going to be geothermal, whether it's going to be any other kind of biomass or resource that comes in and balances your renewable is very important. Regional integration, very important, we need to be able to rely on our neighbors, they can rely on us if we can tap more into the Pacific Northwest hydro, that is actually a huge benefit for us. I think they're also very interested in collaborating on offshore wind development, so we can partner as well. So partnerships on a geographic scale are going to be very important, especially with like minded states. And what we've seen as a result of the energy imbalance market, or maybe, maybe the overall sentiment, even during the Trump administration, which was very interesting, was a reduction in coal, and increase, a massive increase in renewables and a lot of states all around us, whether it's New Mexico, whether it's Washington, whether it's Oregon, or Arizona, and even Colorado, pushing forward, renewable energy standards, 50%, 60% and 100% and beyond, very much like California.
ML: And what is the current status of geothermal in the west, in that western region? So, I'll declare my interest, which is that I'm an advisor to a company called Eavor, which just got funded by BP, Chevron and Temasek, the Singapore Investment Authority, and it's advanced geothermal, it's not fracking. It's a closed loop system using… but it goes deep enough to get a fluid to get water, high enough temperature to generate electricity. And to me, that's very promising, of course, lots of questions about the cost. But are you planning on any more geothermal or has that been sort of promised so often that you're because you've not mentioned it so far? We're, you know, a half an hour in…
AG: We're excited about it. No, no, we're very excited about geothermal and we only have geothermal resources in California, especially, you know, in the Imperial Valley, which is one of the areas that needs the jobs as well. They have the highest unemployment in the state. But also, there's an added benefit with the geothermal resources in the Imperial Valley. There's a lot of lithium. So, they believe that concurrently with the geothermal operations, you'll be able to pull out a lot of lithium and they're hopeful to become the lithium valley of the world. So that we can support the manufacturing of batteries as well, in-state with in-state lithium, which we're all excited about. Yes, geothermal is important. It's 24/7 renewable, it's a little bit more expensive than solar. But we do need it for the balancing, and we do need it for the baseload. And it's a good resource.
ML: Although the Eavor solution is a closed loop, there'd be no lithium because you're not extracting the brines, the water, it's just going round and round. It's very exciting.
AG: Well, but if you can access the lithium and you can pull it out, together with those operations. That's what they're exploring right now, then why not?
ML: No, no, absolutely. That would be in a geographically in a difference absolutely would be very exciting, because we're going to need, probably going to need a lot of lithium. If we're just taking a step back from California for a moment. I met you at the Paris COP negotiations in 2015. You were there with your daughter, I was enormously impressed because you took her out of school, because you said frankly, she's going to learn more by coming to see this process and being part of it, then she will by sitting in a classroom, which I thought was very sort of brave and progressive.
AG: Yes. And you now she has blossomed into an environmental leader in her own right, she's created a club in her school, they have solar panels, she's now making sure that they have batteries, she would like to create a micro grid, she's taken an internship in hydrogen at UCI, the University of California at Irvine, so she's working on fuel cells. So, look what we created in 2015, the 11-year-old came to COP and now she's going to be one, I'm confident she did an internship at the California Energy Commission at the president's office as well for youth leadership. So, she's going to be carrying the flag, and we'll be proud of her.
ML: So my eldest is now 11. And of course, we have COP coming up in Glasgow. I am absolutely planning to have her come and visit I don't know about attending the full two weeks. I'm not sure that Glasgow in November, has quite the appeal of two weeks in Paris in 2015. I'm sure it was a unique and memorable experience. But a lot of what we talked about at the COPs is actually the developing world and how to balance development and spreading the wealth and human wellbeing, to developing countries who have, in some cases, tremendous fossil fuel resources. But you want them to kind of follow the California path. You want them to leapfrog to the sorts of things that you've been talking about. How do you think about that, because you know, that that command centre that I visited was so sophisticated, it was being run by somebody with sort of two PhDs from Germany who had been running a system operator in Germany, or he'd come out of I think you'd come out of Siemens, there was in all this, you know, sophistication. And then, you know, you could see that feasibly in a South Africa. But when you start to look at countries that you know, I don't want to say anything bad about the countries, it's just they don't have those sorts of you know Siemens, educated PhD electrical engineers kind of running around, you know, their electrical system and great numbers, the Mozambiques, the Ethiopias the Malis, the Vietnams, the Bangladeshes, that, you know, in these, these countries that absolutely have to be on this journey. But how do you help them?
AG: Well, that's interesting. You know, I grew up in East Africa, Tanzania, so I'm very familiar with the area and I also am part of an organization that is a grassroots African organization, ReEnergy Africa. And I think the way we're going to have to look at those countries transitioning because they still need to electrify the population, right?. They're like 30%, 40%, electrified at best, is to start opposite to was we started with the large grid and large infrastructures and centralized power stations, they're going to need to go backwards. They're going to start with the micro grids, with the individual solar systems and batteries in a community micro grid community, hopefully able to bring in education, being able to bring in industry, being able to bring in transportation, because you can charge electric vehicles with batteries and with solar and with indigenous resources, most of those countries are blessed with renewable resources as well. And then the centralized grid can come in later interconnect the micro grids and create a larger infrastructure that way, I see that as a much more feasible path than building centralized powered resources with a backbone grid and then providing electricity for the rest of the nation that hasn't worked. The beauty of renewable energy and micro grid and it's almost instantaneous, you can have a community powered with batteries, solar and maybe some other resources. Kenya, for instance, has quite a lot of geothermal in the Rift Valley and then developing that, I've seen it, and it's very exciting as well, that hydropower resources as well that can be harnessed. And that's what the countries should be looking at in terms of developing and in terms of creating electricity on a fast track, bringing the economic well-being of the community that also empowers girls, it goes into all of these good initiatives from a social level, and especially educating young people, and they can have access to world class education remotely. And God knows we've all learned how to do that in the past year, my kids have been learning remotely and online for a year, so it can be done. And that's what I'm hoping to see happen. And that's what I hope the international institutions will focus on, as opposed to bringing in massive infrastructure projects that take decades and are not going to end up electrifying people as fast as we need them to.
ML: I'm going to sort of partially agree and because I've often been in the… I've often made the case that you've just made, which is that a lot of the international institutions, it's not they're blind to the distributed solutions, they just don't have the processes, they don't have the knowledge, it's much easier to do one big project than then 10,000s of villages. But the answer, I think, has to be both because that answer that you just gave is not very satisfying for Lagos or for Accra. Or for, you know that for because there are cities and there are industries that use large scale power. So, for the rural areas, I agree. I mean, if you look at rural Ethiopia, you're never going to have sort of big centralized power stations and pylons looping 1000s of miles. But for the cities and the heavy industry, we've got to find solutions that can enable wealth creation and all of the benefits for those countries.
AG: Right, I was I was just talking to the remote areas and electrifying the remote areas because that's what our organization is also focused on kind of like the cell phone leapfrogging the wires and directly going into providing the service to the rural communities. As for the city centers, yes, that's a that's a different story. We need to figure out how we can power those city centers and of course, enable industry to thrive and enable economic development but also look at the progress that Argentina has made in terms of wind. And in terms of very quickly and we both know Sebastian Kind and the RenovAR project that basically enabled Argentina in a very short timeframe to become a leader in wind generation in integration into their grid, offsetting the need for a large swath of fossil fuels. Of course, they did have the benefit of a centralized grid. That was that was something that the country already had, but there are ways for it to be done and there's organizations focused on making that happen as well.
ML: And you've reminded me I need to get Sebastian Kind, GreenMap is the organization he now runs responsible for I think it's $7 or $8 billion of investment in wind going into Argentina just a few years after they were nationalizing RepSol's assets. Incredible turnaround, incredibly clever design of policy. So the organization that you mentioned. Wait a minute, what was it for Africa? ReEnergy, we're going to put a link into the show notes. For sure. That's one of the things we can do any topic. Also, I don't know if you noticed that Tony Blair was our first guest on series three of Cleaning Up and he also talked about the importance and the opportunity of repowering or powering Africa. But we'll put a link to your organization as well. Now, are you going to be, final question, are you going to be coming to Glasgow to COP 26?
AG: I don't have plans for that yet. It's going to depend on how the pandemic is, how our travel policies are and how everything is working out. So, no firm plans yet, I would love to!
ML: Okay, well, so I have at this point, no plans to come to California, although I would love to. So that was perhaps the first opportunity that we were going to have to, to catch up in person. And I strongly suspect that if you don't come to COP 26, we'd miss you enormously because I'm going to be there. But if you don't come, then certainly I would very much hope during 2022, to come and visit you, and maybe even visit the same control room at California ISO again, and see how you've developed since my last visit?
AG: Oh, yes, I mean, you definitely should, because our footprint has grown our activities have grown, we're very excited. We've had over 170 countries visit. We're very, very open to educating countries. And that's why Argentina came, Brazil came, a lot of Eastern Europeans have come to basically study and to learn what it takes to operate a grid and what it takes to operate a control center. So, it's extremely rewarding. And you know, I'm Eastern European, I come from Bulgaria originally, let's not also forget the Eastern Bloc, that's a very important and challenging area of the world that needs to decarbonize rapidly, too. And they struggled with an old fossil-based infrastructure. And it's very difficult to get that area of the world to decarbonize on the schedule, we need them to decarbonize. So, we've got our work cut out for us.
ML: Very good. And so now, everybody listening to this podcast or YouTube episode will know that where I go to learn is the California ISO control room, and I'm looking forward to my next visit.
AG: Well, definitely. And I hope I'm still chair of the board when you come.
ML: Thank you very much for joining us today. Angelina.
AG: Thank you, Michael, it's been a great pleasure. It has been wonderful.
ML: So that was Angelina Galiteva, Chair of the California Independent System Operator, talking about some of the challenges as California moves to 100% clean electricity. My guest next week on Cleaning Up is Gina Domanig. She's the managing partner of Emerald Technology Ventures one of the preeminent energy and industrial venture investors in Europe. Please join me at this time next week for conversation with Gina Domanig.