Ensuring California’s Smart Grid Maximizes Economic and Environmental Benefits

On May 24th, California’s Public Utility Commission (CPUC) released its proposed decision for the smart grid plans of California’s three investor-owned electric utilities, PG&E, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison. 

The proposed decision is a requirement of Senate Bill 17, sponsored by Senator Alex Padilla, which requires smart grids to help California meet its climate change, demand-side management and renewable energy goals. Senator Padilla’s bill gives the CPUC an opportunity to set aggressive guidelines for how utilities can leverage smart grid technology to achieve a win-win balance of meeting California’s future energy growth needs while having minimal impact on the environment.  

Once adopted—a vote to approve the decision is expected next month—the decision will provide a framework for how utilities can design and deploy their smart grid plans. 

The smart grid’s ability to reduce air pollution and create green jobs can only be realized if utilities’ smart grid plans are designed to increase the use of clean energy and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Without strong environmental metrics, we will sacrifice a critical opportunity to set trailblazing standards that guide deployment of one of the most promising solutions for a low-carbon economy. 

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) asked the PUC to design the smart grid to ensure that California achieves its landmark energy and environmental policy goals to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and increase its use of renewable energy from 20 percent by 2010 to 33 percent by 2020

The PUC proposed decision contains the critical commitment to giving consumers real-time energy use data that can be used to lower energy use and costs. As we noted in our last post on the subject, this information can help all utility customers save money – even those that do not change their energy use. 

The PUC is also taking the time necessary to ensure that providing transparency on real-time energy use is done in a way that benefits consumers and protects their privacy. 

As the agency hammers out the final decision on smart grids in the next month, EDF will be working with their staff and our clean energy allies to ensure consumers, our economy and the environment reap maximum benefits.  

A well-designed smart grid system will help facilitate: expanded deployment of renewable and distributed power sources; reward those who use less energy at peak times; and drive greater adoption of electric vehicles and new energy storage technologies.

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