Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) (New York, N.Y.) on Monday released a framework to critically evaluate how effective California public utilities' plans to upgrade the state's outdated electricity network into a digital smart grid will be at delivering environmental and consumer benefits.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.
The state's three investor-owned utilities (IOUs) are required to use the CPUC guidelines in designing and deploying smart grids. According to EDF, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) are the largest utilities in California, with 20 million customers’ total. Plans are due to the CPUC by July 1st and EDF will score them in mid-to-late July.
"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.
According to EDF, energy experts 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.
"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.