SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego Gas & Electric's plans to build energy storage facilities in El Cajon and Escondido were approved Thursday by the California Public Utilities Commission.

SDG&E announced that construction of the 30-megawatt and 7.5-megawatt projects will begin immediately on utility-owned property, with completion scheduled for early next year.

In May, the CPUC directed Southern California electric utilities to fast- track additional energy storage options to enhance regional reliability. SDG&E is mandated by the state agency to have 165 megawatts of energy storage online by 2024.

"We were in the process of a competitive solicitation for energy storage and already had completed a pre-evaluation of respondents,"' said James Avery, SDG&E's chief development officer. "As a result, we could move quickly to respond to the CPUC's request for expedited proposals."

Adding storage resources improves the overall reliability of the grid as it allows the system to accommodate greater amounts of renewable power and helps to ease congestion, according to the utility.

SDG&E plans to charge the batteries during times when there is abundant solar or wind power and tap them during the peak usage time in the early evening.

The CPUC also approved a plan by SDG&E and its parent company, Sempra Energy, to form a shareholder-funded arm to lobby against community choice aggregation, an alternative manner of acquiring energy that's supported by ratepayer advocates. Energy would be delivered by nonprofit organizations that are overseen by local governments.

The utilities themselves are barred from lobbying on the issue with the use of ratepayer funds.