California Efficiency and Demand Management Council’s Spring Symposium
I recently attended the California Efficiency + Demand Management Council’s (CEDMC)Spring Symposium in Berkeley. The keynote speaker was the president of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael Picker. His presentation included some insights into the state’s current status. At one point he mentioned that policymakers are surprised by how fast the signs of climate change are becoming evident. Years of drought, followed by above average rainfall, coupled with record high winds have resulted in devastating wildfires across the state. All of this was predicted years ago by climate scientists. For the vast majority, it’s pretty obvious that our climate is changing and this will have significant impacts on all of us.
The good news is California has very aggressive goals related to reducing our impact on the planet. Renewables are helping, our electric grid is getting cleaner as more renewable energy sources feed into the grid. Utilities are on track to meet our 2030 greenhouse gas reductions goals, and will most likely meet the 2030 targets by 2025. Commissioner Picker also mentioned that to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions further we should encourage electrification and fuel switching. He then stated the undeniable fact that addressing our existing building stock would be the biggest challenge.
Energy Efficiency is Still Relevant
Commissioner Liane Randolph, from the CPUC and commissioner Andrew McAllister from the CEC, participated in a panel discussion. The topics included the goals and challenges they face in meeting the state’s ambitious GHG reduction targets. They both agreed that this will require policymakers to rethink options and explore all means to reduce emissions. According to Commissioner McAllister “demand response and energy efficiency will be first on the loading order.” They both agreed that generation resources are easier to identify than Negawatts, the savings from energy efficiency, as they are physical and are easier to measure. That said, there is no question that both the CPUC and the CEC consider the savings from energy efficiency as an essential resource. Energy savings from demand response and energy efficiency are both a part of the comprehensive plan to reduce GHG emissions. The state is counting on these and other efforts to meet the aggressive reductions necessary to meet our mandated goals.
There was some common messaging from all three of these high-level players. Climate change is real, and we need to act fast to mitigate our impact. Existing buildings are the real challenge as building codes will shape new construction. All efforts need to include energy equity to ensure the results are a benefit to all. And electrification of the transportation system and buildings needs to happen fast.
None of this is easy, and it will require multiple solutions such as, changing building codes, encouraging electrification, using synthetic and renewable gas, and of course removing barriers such as outdated policy (three-prong test, T-24 cost-effectiveness). Another key to moving forward is exploring new and creative means to pay for all of this. We can’t depend on ratepayer funds, and there is a renewed discussion about the potential for a carbon tax.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction
My takeaway from this event is there is a significant shift in the state’s climate goals, and GHG is the new focus. Energy efficiency is a key part of any reduction strategy. We need to recognize the value of energy efficiency and consider it a vital grid resource. Savings from energy efficiency, Negawatts, are as significant or more important than generation resources (power plants). And finally, there are lots of people working hard to address the issue of climate change in California. I think that is a good thing for all of us and we need to continue to support and encourage these efforts on a large scale.