Virtual Power Plants for Community Resilience

Host: California Strategic Growth Council
Openings: 1
Project Focus: Climate Adaptation (e.g., sea level rise planning, environmental justice, climate migration planning), Climate Mitigation, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy
Skills Needed: Community Engagement, Relationship Management, Data Analysis, GIS Mapping,

Remote or On-Site Placement


Service Needs & Plans

This project will support efforts for California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) to develop energy infrastructure on neighborhood-level resilience centers to provide shelter and resources during climate and other emergencies. The project aims to advance social equity through a holistic approach to building community resilience that combines a comprehensive set of infrastructure upgrades, service delivery, and supportive programming developed and implemented in partnership with neighborhood residents.

Project Description

This project aims to help sites and facilities supported by SGC-member programs across California to build energy resilience, reduce energy costs, and generate rental income by siting and operating distributed energy resources (DERs). DERs are small-scale energy resources usually situated near sites of electricity use, such as rooftop solar panels and battery storage, but may include electric vehicle chargers, heat pump water heaters, and other app-enabled “smart” appliances such as refrigerators and

In September 2023, the Strategic Growth Council (SGC) became one of two California State entities to receive the US Department of Energy’s “State Energy Financing Institution”, or SEFI, designation. A SEFI is an entity established by a state, Indian Tribal entity, or Alaska Native Corporation to provide financing support for eligible clean energy projects and to take steps to reduce financial barriers to the deployment of eligible clean energy projects.

SGC is now using its SEFI designation to help sites and facilities supported by SGC-member programs across California to build energy resilience and benefit from reduced energy costs and compensated use of supported facilities for distributed energy resource siting and operations. Virtual power plants (VPPs), broadly defined as a connected aggregation of solar and storage resources across multiple sites, offer a proven pathway for meeting these objectives in a way that extends direct benefits to California’s disadvantaged communities.

The Fellow will support coordination efforts between SGC, a third-party virtual power plant provider, and eligible sites to enhance the resilience of supported facilities while contributing to the overall reliability and sustainability of the grid. The Fellow will work with the provider and SGC grant recipients to determine the appropriateness of sites by considering the potential for on-site renewable power generation, existing DER investments, local support and partnerships, and Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) terms. The Fellow will support SGC’s engagement with other State entities seeking to leverage a similar approach to meet policy and program objectives.

The primary outcomes of this project include power purchase and community benefit agreements between the third-party provider and SGC grant recipients, a policy report highlighting opportunities and challenges of this approach, including potential for application across other SGC-member agency programs. These resources will further SGC’s ability to meet the climate resilience needs of its grant recipients, while demonstrating a proven pathway to sister agencies seeking to leverage federal funding opportunities to support community resilience.

While this project has tremendous potential to bring much-needed federal funding to Californian communities, SGC currently lacks the necessary staff and financial resources for implementation. Furthermore, the Community Resilience Centers program is significantly oversubscribed – over 180 applications for roughly 20 awards – indicating substantial unmet need. The support of a CivicSpark Fellow will be instrumental in addressing this funding gap by ensuring federal funding reaches those California communities most in need in a way that would not otherwise be possible in the current budget context.

Desired Skills

Knowledge of energy infrastructure development is an advantage but not required.

Organization & Workplace Highlights

The California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) is a cabinet-level committee housed within the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. SGC’s vision is that all California communities are healthy, thriving, and resilient. Core to our organization’s mandate is the partnership, interdisciplinary thinking, and innovation necessary to achieve this vision. Since SGC’s establishment in 2008 and since SGC began grant administration in 2014, we have worked with and for communities and State agencies to solve tough challenges with multi-benefit solutions across sectors.

As we near 10 years of grant-making, SGC has invested over $3.5 billion in physical and social infrastructure projects to strengthen communities and address the climate crisis in some of the State’s most vulnerable communities. We have funded over 15,000 new affordable homes, helped avoid 13.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, are in the process of conserving 194,000 acres of agricultural lands, and awarded over $30 million in climate research grants.

SGC operates an array of innovative community investment programs, collaborative policy initiatives, technical assistance, capacity-building activities, convenings, and scalable best practices. It invests approximately 85 percent of its grants in benefiting low-income and disadvantaged communities and provides technical assistance to increase access to needed resources.

SGC’s commitment to advancing racial and health equity through inter-agency coordination and grant administration has spanned nearly 15 years. This was solidified in 2019 when the SGC Council adopted a first-of-its-kind state-level Resolution on Racial Equity that called on SGC to take action and embed racial equity in all we do. This was strengthened in 2022 with Governor Newsom’s Executive Order on Equity (EO N-16-22), which calls for State agencies to conduct public engagement and embed equity across all organizational facets within their strategic plans in a way that uses data analysis, inclusive practices, and policy to address equity and discrimination. SGC gathered input from historically disadvantaged and underserved communities through various program workshops, the 2023 SGC Catalyst Conference, and SGC Council Meetings. SGC’s Strategic Plan responds to this by incorporating equity as a focus across all objectives with specific, tangible, and measurable actions that further our commitment to equity.

Community Highlights

California lawmakers established SGC in 2008 to support sustainable community development across California – with a focus on State agency coordination to improve air and water quality and natural resource protection, increase the availability of affordable housing, improve transportation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and support adaptation and resilience.

To further improve our relationships with communities and local governments in under-resourced communities, SGC has prioritized physically meeting communities where they are by attending site visits, roundtables, and other events across the state. SGC Leadership and staff attended events from Klamath in the North State to Guadalupe in the Central Coast and Palm Desert in the Inland Empire. This led to increased in-person collaboration across teams and greater knowledge of the opportunities and challenges these specific communities face.

In March 2023, SGC hosted its first in-person staff retreat since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two-day event allowed staff to re-connect, reflect on the past year, develop the Strategic Plan, and create a deeper sense of belonging within the organization. SGC continues to utilize diverse networks to share opportunities for internships and full-time roles. In the past year, SGC hired six paid interns, including two interns hosted through partnerships with the Stanford Woods Institute and the Maddy Institute. Through paid internships, SGC has expanded the availability of opportunities for students of all backgrounds across the State.

SGC’s supportive workplace culture, opportunities for professional development, and demonstrated commitment to equity present an exciting opportunity for a CivicSpark Fellow to succeed and thrive. The SGC offices are located in downtown Sacramento, directly across from the State Capitol. The proximity offers significant advantages to fellows, providing them with ready access to the “real world” of public policy, advocacy, and administration.

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