California utility smart grid plans get passing ‘mid-term’ grades


Miriam Horn,
Director of EDF’s
smart grid initiative
Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — August 19, 2011 – The smart grid plans of California’s three investor-owned utilities have comprehensive visions and coherent strategies, but lack commitments to measure and verify progress on delivering benefits required by the state’s clean energy and energy efficiency laws, according to Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
Those laws include California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020), the Renewable Portfolio Standard (increasing renewable electricity use from 20 percent to 33 percent of total electricity delivered by 2020) and the California Solar Initiative (installing 1,940 MW of solar energy by 2017).
EDF used its recently released smart grid evaluation framework to analyze approximately 1,000 pages of material submitted by PG&E, SDG&E and SCE to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC). While the plans show that a smart grid in California can deliver significant consumer and environmental benefits, utilities must commit to regularly providing detailed updates on their progress meeting energy law requirements in order to get passing “final” grades.

“These public utilities will be investing billions of taxpayer dollars in the smart grid, so we can’t afford for them not to get it right,” said Miriam Horn, director of EDF’s smart grid initiative. “The smart grid is critical to achieving the state’s goals: to eliminate massive inefficiencies in the system, dramatically increase California’s reliance on renewable energy, including ‘distributed’ energy, shift to zero emission electric vehicles, and empower consumers to manage their energy use, footprint and bills. But the smart grid will only achieve these things if it is designed from the outset to do so, and if utilities are held accountable for delivering on their promises.”

PG&E, SDG&E and SCE serve more than 11 million customer accounts and estimate that they will make new smart grid investments between $2.4 billion and $3.6 billion from now through 2020.

The plans of SDG&E and SCE got the highest cumulative grades with a “B-”, while PG&E’s plan earned a “C.”