Caroline Winn

SDG&E COO Highlights Power of Energy Storage Innovation

Remarks as prepared for delivery by SDG&E Chief Operating Officer, Caroline Winn, to an audience of approximately 2,000 energy storage innovators, at the 2017 Energy Storage North America conference

Good morning… Welcome to San Diego… and thank you for coming to America’s Finest City.

As I was thinking about addressing this group today, I was reminded of the inventor of the lightbulb: Thomas Edison.

When Thomas Edison's light bulb and the electric current that turn it on started powering our lives more than a century ago, we changed forever.

People began to work longer hours, electricity began flowing into factories to power machinery and the inventions we rely on today -- whether it's refrigeration, television, computers, and of course smart phones-- they all became a reality.

Thomas Edison was arguably the world’s greatest game changer of his time. He refused to settle for just living with a problem if he could create a solution.

As I look out at each of you, I can’t help but think that collectively you are the game changers of this century.

You are spending your days and nights inventing the future of energy and building a better tomorrow.

You are refusing to settle for throwing away excess renewable power, because you know solutions exist to harness this clean energy and use it when we need it most.

You know that whether it’s solid state or flow batteries, or thermal or compressed air storage, these technology applications are the gateway to helping our society manage cloudy or windless days, and the dark of the night… all while helping us achieve a lower carbon footprint.

Fortunately for us in San Diego we have a lot of sunshine and ocean breezes. And at SDG&E, our 4,200 employees are working hard to put all those natural resources to good use for our customers.

While SDG&E may not be inventing energy storage technologies, we are at the forefront of testing and searching for solutions that work best.

We won’t settle for doing things the same way we’ve always done them, because we know there’s a better way and it could be right around the corner.

I’m proud to serve as the Chief Operating Officer of SDG&E and really excited about the future of our company and our industry.

At San Diego Gas and Electric, our employees come to work every day focused on improving lives and communities that we serve.  We have an aspiration to become the cleanest, safest and most reliable energy company in America.

I know this is a lofty goal, but when you create a culture that empowers every employee to never settle for being “just good enough” at safety... or “just good enough” at keeping the lights on... you also create a mindset that says you can’t be “just good enough” at generating and delivering clean energy to customers who demand and deserve better.

As an engineer, it’s in my DNA to want to fix things. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by innovative employees and to have the ability to partner with companies-- many of you out there today-- that are developing technologies that allow us to be leaders.


If you’ll allow me to, I’d like to share some of our progress around clean energy and climate issues, both of which are the subject of much discussion in America.

For more than a decade, we’ve been at the forefront of delivering results in support of California’s clean energy agenda.

And, we continue to outperform California's renewable portfolio standard requirements…

I'm really proud to say that today more than forty-three percent of the energy delivered to our customers comes from renewable resources.

And we’re well on our way to 50 percent.

We're also helping our customers go green more directly...

We have supported and enabled more than 115,000 private rooftop solar installations in our communities. That’s about seven percent of our customers, who together are producing more than 760 MWs of solar energy-- far greater than our largest power plant.

Some very innovative and creative employees at SDG&E even invented an electrical device-- the renewable meter adapter--that makes the installation of rooftop solar substantially safer, faster and more affordable.

Right now this invention is only available to SDG&E customers, but we’ve asked our regulators to allow us to take this product beyond our service territory, to anyone who wants it.

While we’re very proud of our work to date, we think some of our biggest opportunities are in front of us.

Let me begin with electrifying the transportation sector.

Many of you know that transportation is the single greatest source of carbon emissions in America.

In San Diego, 50 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to the movement of people and things.

With electricity increasingly sourced from the sun and wind, and electric car batteries offering significantly longer range and a shorter recharge time, now is the time to electrify our transportation sector.

Earlier this year we filed for approval with our regulators to install the charging infrastructure required to serve the airport, marine port, delivery fleets, and homes throughout the region.

These programs build on our approved work to install 3,500 electric charging stations at work places and multi-family communities.

And, a minimum of 10 percent of these chargers will be placed in disadvantaged communities, making sure that clean energy and innovation are available for everyone.


While clean energy and electrification are exciting frontiers, safety and reliability must remain the uncompromised foundations of our industry.

I know for me… and I’m confident the same is true for all of you… nothing is more important than ensuring the safety of our employees, our contractors, and the communities we serve.

In San Diego, one of the greatest risks to our operations and to public safety is the threat of wildfires, especially during periods of powerful dry winds.

When wildfires threaten our homes and businesses, it often creates significant risk to our ability to deliver reliable energy to our customers, and the water pumping stations that firefighters depend on to extinguish the flames.

Imagine all of the energy storage applications that could help power critical facilities and agencies to literally save lives.

We are imagining it, and strategically looking at new sites to support critical circuits that deliver life-saving services in evacuation centers, or near fire stations and hospitals.


The final area I would like to highlight is our leadership around reliability.

Through investments in infrastructure and technology, SDG&E has earned the distinction of being named the most reliable utility in the Western United States for 11 consecutive years.

We think energy storage is an area that holds great promise for providing higher levels of reliability and meeting peak energy demand.

Today, there are more than 100 MWs of energy storage connected to our local power grid.

These systems represent a wide range of applications, including transmission-sited and behind-the-meter storage, and a wide range of technologies, including lithium-ion and flow batteries and pumped hydro.

You may have heard that earlier this year we commissioned the world’s largest lithium-ion battery facility, in partnership with AES.  Some of you may have visited the site yesterday.

This 30MW/120MWh installation is working really well.  Since its commissioning, it’s been bid into the day-ahead and real-time markets and dispatched as needed by California’s power grid operator to meet energy needs.

During the same time, we also commissioned a smaller 7.5 MW facility, and both facilities have been consistently running smoothly.

We’re also testing a utility-scale vanadium flow battery in collaboration with the Japanese government and Sumitomo USA.

We connected the flow battery to a circuit that has a high concentration of private solar.  Not only has this battery enhanced power quality and the efficiency of the power grid, it has been particularly useful during heat waves.  We’ve been able to store power and discharge it to shave peak demand.

These latest projects are a great complement to a number of facilities that we’ve been operating for the last several years. As with the projects I just mentioned, each one was chosen to meet a particular customer need, to test a new technology, or to test its application on our system.

One we’re particularly proud of is our microgrid, located in the town of Borrego Springs about 90 miles from here. It leverages solar energy, storage, and traditional generation to meet the unique needs of a community served by only one major power line.

In Orange County, just north of here, we experienced some sudden growing pains – and I’m sure many of you can relate.  A new, large customer added 2 MW of demand to our circuit, requiring us to find a solution.

We wanted to move quickly, so we installed a 6 MWh energy storage system to solve the distribution capacity issue.  The battery is discharged when the electric demand is high.

We’ve also placed an energy storage system at a local high school, which, during emergencies, transforms into an evacuation center.

Energy generated by the school’s solar panels is combined with the onsite battery and then controlled remotely to literally “island” this facility.

We've been performing ongoing tests to island the school from the power grid. These tests have provided great information that we’ll use for future planned and forced outages.

And, in the future, we may use this battery to smooth out voltage fluctuations from nearby private solar. If a cloud passes overhead and knocks out a couple hundred kilowatts of midday rooftop solar power, the battery could become a shock absorber… quickly able to handle the variable power flows depending on what’s needed.

So what's next for SDG&E?

As we look for new opportunities, we will focus on installations that provide resiliency and energy security to complement the increasing amounts of renewable energy powering our region.

We expect to add over 200MW of energy storage, and we currently have applications pending approval for five new energy storage projects totaling over 83MW.

We'll also be working with regulators to implement policy changes, and new pricing structures that give customers the right signals to drive real economic and environmental benefits.

As I conclude my remarks, I want to recognize all of you who believe in the power of innovation and leadership.

I know I want to look back 10 to 20 years from now and know that we made a meaningful difference by delivering clean, safe and reliable energy to the communities we are privileged to serve.

I want my daughter…and her children…to be the game changers of their generations, recognizing that through innovation and leadership, we all have a part in ensuring San Diego remains America’s Finest City.

And through the work that we all do… that we leave this world in a better place than it is today.

Thank you.