California Invests in its Clean Energy Future

California is investing nearly half a billion dollars in electricity research and development and alternative fuels.
Published: Sat 10 May 2014

The California Energy Commission has given the nod to two major energy investment plans that could total almost half a billion dollars.

The first investment will go towards clean energy research and the other will fund an annual clean transportation investment plan that is designed to spark innovation in projects that will help transform California's fleet to meet greenhouse gas and clean air goals.

Game-changing research

The clean energy research plan is a US$388 million investment funded by the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) which awards funding for potentially game-changing research that produces more reliable, lower-cost and safer electricity. This is the second Program Investment Charge investment plan and covers the years 2015-2017. Program Investment Charge plans must be approved every three years.

"Public sector investments in energy research and development is critical to bringing breakthrough ideas to a competitive marketplace and further solidify California's position as an incubator of companies that can bring innovation to an industry that needs it," explains Robert Weisenmiller, chair of the Energy Commission. "This EPIC funding will help California start-ups prove their ideas and attract private-sector funding."

The Electric Program Investment Charge plan will now make its way to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which oversees the program. The Commission is expected to vote on it in December. Electric Program Investment Charge is funded by electricity ratepayers of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

The approved 2014-2015 Investment Plan Update for the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, which accounts for about 40% of California's carbon emissions.

Projects help clean air goals

The program annually invests in a variety of alternative fuels and vehicle technologies. To date, investments total more than US$400 million in over 250 projects to help reduce greenhouse gasses and create jobs in California.

"The Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program invests in projects that are expected to spark innovation to transform California's transportation fleet," explains Commissioner Janea Scott. "The plan the Commission approved today will guide investments toward projects that are intended to help California meet its climate and clean air goals."

The Energy Commission has also approved funding of over US$3.8 million in grants from last year's investment plan for electric and natural gas fuelling stations, alternative fuel readiness plans, fuel cell delivery vans, the establishment of a sustainable transportation centre, and more than US$16 million in natural gas vehicle incentives.

Investment drives innovation

The Energy Commission has a long history of funding successful innovation. Ratepayers will save an estimated US$10 billion as a result of just 19 previous research and development projects whose results led to new state efficiency standards. That is a return on investment of US$446 for every US$1 invested by the Energy Commission in these types of projects.

“Energy efficiency continues to be an important way to reduce energy use and cost, as well as greenhouse gas emissions,” explains Mr Weisenmiller. “Our energy research and development investments drive innovation and our progress toward a clean energy future.”