(Sacramento, CA–June 6, 2011) Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today released a framework to critically evaluate how effective California public utilities' plans to upgrade the state's outdated electricity network into a digital smart grid will be at delivering environmental and consumer benefits. The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) approved a roadmap last June based on the provisions of state law SB 17. It requires that utility smart grid investments help California meet its climate change, demand-side management and renewable energy goals.
EDF played a key role in shaping the CPUC guidelines, which the state's three investor-owned utilities (IOUs) are required to use in designing and deploying their smart grids. With 20 million customers among them, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) are the largest utilities in California. Plans are due to the CPUC by July 1st and EDF will score them in mid-to-late July.
1. Empowers customers to save energy and money;
2. Enables integration of large- and small-scale renewable energy projects to meet the state's 33 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard and distributed generation goals; and
3. Incentivizes electric vehicles to charge when electricity is cheaper and cleaner.
EDF also is advising PG&E and will use the framework to score all three utilities' plans with equal rigor, so that the best elements are adopted and any weaknesses or gaps are remedied.
"Since these public utilities are investing millions of their ratepayers' dollars in the smart grid and need to get so many things right, EDF developed this framework to help California's smart grid deliver on its promises. It also identifies concrete steps these utilities can take to reach those goals," said Miriam Horn, director of EDF's smart grid initiative.
Energy experts at EDF will use the framework to score how well the public utilities' plans will enable the integration of clean energy technologies, empower customers, create a platform for innovative technologies and services, enable demand-side resources to be made available for wholesale energy markets and meet environmental targets set forth in federal and state laws. These laws include California's 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), which requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to 1990 levels by 2020.
EDF's Evaluation Framework for Smart Grid Deployment Plans, Benefits to Consumers and the Environment focuses on results defined by the U.S. Department of Energy: 'enhanced grid operations, customer services and environmental benefits.' EDF staff and an independent consultant developed the framework with input from multiple stakeholders including CPUC staff, the California IOUs, former Austin Energy General Manager Roger Duncan, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), The Brattle Group, Galvin Electricity Initiative and consumer advocacy organizations.
"This is a brand new effort by the utilities with ratepayers footing the bill. We want to make sure plans deliver solid returns on those investments. This tool will make it easy to show which utilities made the grade," said Tim O'Connor, an attorney and climate change analyst at EDF.
EDF is working on multiple smart grid projects across the country, including the Pecan Street Project, in Austin, Texas, a $25 million demonstration project designed to meet consumer and community needs. EDF is also engaging consumer groups and other public and private entities to help ensure consumers have the information and protections they need, and that ratepayer investments deliver returns in the form of cleaner air, improved public health, reduced energy costs and a stronger economy.
Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Visit us on Twitter at @EnvDefenseFund and @EDF_CA, at our California blog, California Dream 2.0, and on Facebook atfacebook.com/EnvDefenseFund.