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CEC Begins Funding $330 Million in Energy R&D

December 14, 2014 by Jeff Shepard

The California Energy Commission (CEC) approved its first $10 million to fund Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) research and development (R&D) projects during its monthly business meeting today. The Commission also approved grants for the operation of a hydrogen fueling station, biofuel production, geothermal exploration and rooftop solar for schools. EPIC is a multi-year, research investment program focused on electricity-related innovations, finding new energy solutions and bringing clean energy ideas to the marketplace. The program's 2012-2014 plan calls for investing $330 million between 2014 and 2015 in innovative technologies that provide benefits to electric ratepayers served by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. The seven awards approved will fund applied R&D projects that will develop utility-scale renewable energy generation technologies.

"R&D is the driving force of innovation," said California Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. "It has been a long road developing the EPIC clean energy research program and I am delighted to see these first projects getting funded, which will enable California to meet the goals of its low-carbon energy future."

Two of the awardees, Halotechnics and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), also received funds from the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), the energy innovation branch of the U.S. Department of Energy. The state and federal awards are complementary and aim to push emerging technologies to the marketplace. Halotechnics and UCLA: $1.5 million each to advance thermal energy storage technologies that will help cut costs and improve the efficiency of thermal energy storage, leading to increased capacity and operational benefits for concentrated solar power plants.

Itron, Inc.: $1 million to use high-fidelity solar forecasting to predict load impacts on California's electricity grid and reduce solar integration costs. Geysers Power Company: $3 million to investigate if geothermal plants could vary output to balance other intermittent renewable resources to increase the amounted of wind and solar used by the grid. University of California, San Diego (UCSD): $1 million to use advanced solar forecasting to optimize campus distributed energy resources on the UCSD campus. Also, $1 million to address solar energy forecasting for large-scale concentrating solar power and photovoltaic plants. University of California, Davis: $1 million to improve the accuracy of short-term forecasting of wind power production in the Tehachapi Wind Resources Area.

In the next year, the EPIC program will invest an additional $180 million in grants to fund projects designed to achieve California's clean energy goals and provide customers with additional energy choices.

The Energy Commission approved two grants and contracts through the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP), which supports the development and use of alternative and renewable fuel projects and advanced transportation technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on petroleum-based fuels. Colony Energy Partners Tulare, LLC: $5 million to construct a digester for processing waste that will produce 2.8 million diesel gallon equivalents of biogas each year, displacing an equal amount of diesel fuel used by trucks in the San Joaquin Valley. This job-creating project is nearly three times larger than any other biogas project funded by the Energy Commission. Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.: $300,000 for its first of 10 hydrogen fueling stations being funded by the Commission. The award covers operations and maintenance costs for fueling station equipment in Diamond Bar, and the costs of gathering data about the equipment.

Other Items Approved include: A $900,000 grant to Paulsson, Inc. to build and field test a project to produce high resolution seismic data and maps that better detail geothermal subsurface conditions. A $3 million loan to Monterey Peninsula Unified School District to pay for installing solar photovoltaic systems at five sites. The systems are estimated to annually save more than $200,000. Funding will come from the Clean Energy Jobs Act (Proposition 39). Substantive changes to the Proposition 39: California Clean Energy Jobs Act 2015 Program Implementation Guidelines. The guidelines provide direction to potential applicants and reflect a process that has taken several months and included stakeholder participation and input. And a tribal consultation policy to ensure effective government-to-government consultation between the Energy Commission and tribal entities to provide meaningful tribal input into Energy Commission activities that may affect tribal communities.