California’s Clean Energy Future, Part 3


On Tuesday, January 25, I was in the audience at the SPUR Urban Center in San Francisco as Panama Bartholomy, CEC, and Emma Wendt, PG&E, gave presentation about California’s clean energy future.

The post below consists of Part 3 of my record of the presentation –  Emma Wendt’s presentation. All portions are included in chronological order.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. The presentation is transcribed as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. I also added any photos or images.

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Emma Wendt

Most people don’t think of utilities as wanting to do something to address the clean energy future… You might know PG&E through your utility… We’re a really large but really green utility… We’ve won greenest utility in America for the last 2 years… We have a really green portfolio… We have a significant amount of solar interconnected into our system…

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What do we mean when we talk about a sustainable electric system?… … The first step in cleaning up the system is to supply green power… On the customer side, you can add rooftop solar and plug-in electric vehicles. But because you have peaks in demand, and an intermittent demand… you need some sort of storage system to make sure demand can always be met by supply… Also need a way for all of this to talk to each other.

On the renewable side, there are a number of ways you can interconnect renewables into our grid… There are a number of programs – California Solar Initiative, Self-Generation Incentive Program, net energy metering, feed-in tariffs, and the renewable auction mechanism, which are hot of the policy presses…

We have a renewables RFO, where we look  at the feasibility of projects … … and PG&E is looking at more options for owning renewables.

So why are we doing all this? … … We do have the renewable portfolio standard…

Another policy hot off the presses is the TREC decision – only allowed to buy out-of-state renewables for up to 25% of our renewables obligation… …

[Showing 2009 electric power mix.] This is what was actually delivered. We don’t yet have final 2010 numbers…

In the future, we have a ton of contracts for new renewable sources. A large part is solar – both solar thermal and solar PV… … You’ll only see a small amount coming from small hydro – basically the rivers that can be dammed are already dammed up… …

PV program hopes to speed up future PV installations… … if you are a developer of small-scale renewables projects, the RFO comes out next week… … On the utility side, we are planning to build more substations… … We want to build solar PV near our substations…

In reality, renewables projects in California don’t always get built. As of the end of 2009, half of our projects were cancelled or significantly delayed… … transmission is causing the most delays, but other barriers are significant – financing, developer inexperience… permitting, technology risks… site control, and the list goes on.. …

PG&E is involved in a statewide initiative called California’s Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI)… you can’t have clean generation without a way to get it to where the people are. This is a really big problem… …

PG&E customers lead in on-site solar generation… but the best resource is energy efficiency… … PG&E offers a wide range of customer energy efficiency programs… … we also have a program where we work on appliance standards… And we work with retailers… to give them the incentive, then they have control over what they put in front of their customers… …

A cool tool to help customers find out more about EE is also SmartMeters. You may have heard a number of things about SmartMeters… But there is the possibility of seeing what your load is like.

PG&E is also looking at options for plug-in electric vehicle integration… looking at meters for the charging of EVs, and having a separate pricing system… We have a number of partnerships with organizations working on electric vehicles.

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We hope that we’ll have a really involved community to help this all move forward.

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This presentation was followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

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Part 1 is posted here. Part 2 is posted here.

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The Difference Between the CEC and CPUC


I know what you’re thinking – a really exciting topic. But this question has actually come up in conversation a remarkable number of times in the last couple of weeks. This is not intended to be a definitive guide, but just to start the delineation between the organizations.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Basics

The CEC is California’s primary energy policy and planning agency.

The CPUC regulates privately owned electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit, and passenger transportation companies.

This post will focus only on the energy aspects of the CPUC’s role.

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The California Energy Commission (CEC)

The five CEC commissioners are appointed by the California governor and must be approved by the Senate. Terms are five years. Commissioners must represent the following specific areas of expertise: law, environment, economics, science/engineering, and the public at large.

The CEC’s responsibilities include:

  • Forecasting future energy needs and keeping historical energy data.
  • Licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger.
  • Promoting energy efficiency by setting the state’s appliance and building efficiency standards and working with local government to enforce those standards.
  • Supporting public interest energy research that advances energy science and technology through research, development, and demonstration programs.
  • Supporting renewable energy by providing market support to existing, new, and emerging renewable technologies; providing incentives for small wind and fuel cell electricity systems; and providing incentives for solar electricity systems in new home construction.
  • Developing and implementing the state Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program to reduce the state’s petroleum dependency and help attain the state climate change policies.
  • Administering more than $300 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding through the state energy program, the energy efficiency conservation and block grant program; the energy efficiency appliance rebate program and the energy assurance and emergency program.
  • Planning for and directing state response to energy emergencies.

The CEC is located in Sacramento, CA.

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The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)

The five CPUC commissioners are also appointed by the California governor and must be approved by the Senate. Terms are six years.

The CPUC regulates investor owned utilities (IOUs) that distribute electricity and natural gas, including Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) and Southern California Gas Company.

The CPUC does not regulate municipal utilities, such as the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).

The CPUC’s mission is the following:

  • The California Public Utilities Commission serves the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at reasonable rates, with a commitment to environmental enhancement and a healthy California economy.  We regulate utility services, stimulate innovation, and promote competitive markets, where possible, in the communications, energy, transportation, and water industries.

The CPUC has a number of different divisions; the Energy Division assists Commission activities in the electricity, natural gas, steam, and petroleum pipeline industries. Energy Division handles the regulation and Commission approval of official rates and terms of service for energy IOUs.

Because the regulated California utilities are so large, and their programs reach so many customers, CPUC energy policy decisions and goals have wide influence in California. The CPUC touches programs in energy efficiency, demand response, low-income assistance, distributed generation, and self-generation, among others. It has a role in California climate policy. It is overseeing the CA utilities’ switch to Smart Grid technologies. The CPUC regulated electric generation and procurement, electric rates and markets, gas policy and rates, and electric transmission and distribution.

CPUC headquarters are in San Francisco, CA.

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