Smart Grid scorecard to help utilities deliver promised benefits

Source:Environmental Defense Fund

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today released a framework to critically evaluate how effective California public utilities' plans to upgrade the state's outdated electricity network into a digital smart grid will be at delivering environmental and consumer benefits.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.

EDF played a key role in shaping the CPUC guidelines, which the state's three investor-owned utilities (IOUs) are required to use in designing and deploying their smart grids. With 20 million customers among them, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) are the largest utilities in California. Plans are due to the CPUC by July 1st and EDF will score them in mid-to-late July.

In addition to developing this 'report card,' EDF worked with SDG&E on its plan—also being released today—to ensure that, among other things, its smart grid:

1. Empowers customers to save energy and money;
2. Enables integration of large- and small-scale renewable energy projects to meet the state's 33 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard and distributed generation goals; and
3. Incentivizes electric vehicles to charge when electricity is cheaper and cleaner.

EDF also is advising PG&E and will use the framework to score all three utilities' plans with equal rigor, so that the best elements are adopted and any weaknesses or gaps are remedied.

"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.

Energy experts at EDF 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.

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