Energy agencies in California are looking into new definitions for the term "zero-carbon technology" in order to help meet the state's goal to supply 100-percent zero-carbon electricity to customers by Dec. 31, 2045, the California Energy Commission said at a board meeting on Aug. 14.

The CEC is working with the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Air Resources Board to issue a joint agency report on the plan to meet the state's renewable-electricity goals as stated in SB 100, including what should and should not count as a zero-carbon resource.

"Top of mind for a lot of stakeholders is what qualifies as zero-carbon technology," CEC project manager Terra Weeks said. "When you look at the bill's language, really the intent is to allow for as many potential avenues as possible while still meeting the intent of the bill. We're looking more at the attributes of technologies versus a prescriptive list of technologies."

SB 100 requires the CEC, CARB and the CPUC to issue a joint agency report by Jan. 1, 2021, and at least every four years thereafter. The joint report is to include the following: review of the bill and its benefits and impacts on electricity reliability; analysis of costs and benefits to utilities; barriers to the bill; and alternative scenarios under which policies within the bill can be achieved.

"We need to change our categories to carbon-free versus the narrow definition of renewables," Commissioner Andrew McAllister said. "The easy way to think about this [bill] is [renewables portfolio standard] on steroids, but that's not what exactly it is. At high levels of penetration of renewables, this becomes an electric system planning exercise, which RPS to now hasn't really been. I think we're going to be involving the California [Independent System Operator] more and more."

SB 100 also requires the CEC and CPUC to ensure that a transition to a zero-carbon electric system in California does not cause or contribute to greenhouse gas emissions increases elsewhere in the Western grid (see CEM No. 1547 [13]).

The first joint agency workshop will be held on Sept. 5.

The CEC also took the following actions, among others, at the meeting:

  • Approved a loan to the City of Gustine for about $2.2 million at 1 percent interest to install various energy-efficiency and renewable-energy measures at its facilities. The project is expected to save about 870,000 kWh of grid electricity consumption and about $140,000 in utility costs annually.
  • Approved a loan to the County of Santa Barbara for about $2.7 million at 1 percent interest for two lighting-improvement measures and two solar-photovoltaic systems totaling 767 kW. The project is expected to reduce electricity usage by about 1.7 MWh and save about $283,000 annually.
  • Approved a grant of about $3.9 million to replace 10 diesel-powered school buses with 10 electric buses for the Chula Vista Elementary School District, and a grant of about $780,000 for the Gateway Unified School District to replace two diesel-powered school buses with two electric buses and install supporting charging infrastructure.
  • Approved about $3 million for UniEnergy Technologies to demonstrate new flow-battery technology. The battery system will be deployed at a farm in San Diego Gas & Electric territory to test the optimal economic use cases for a large solar-plus-storage system.
  • Approved the City of Davis' request to require solar PV systems on newly constructed nonresidential and high-rise residential buildings. The 2019 version of Title 24, which outlines the state's energy-efficiency standards for residential and nonresidential buildings, would require solar power on nonresidential buildings with three habitable stories or fewer.
  • Approved the City of Carlsbad's request to require solar systems on newly constructed nonresidential buildings and electric or renewable water-heating equipment for systems serving individual dwelling units and nonresidential occupancies.
  • Confirmed the following integrated resource plans are consistent with the requirements of SB 350: Pasadena Water and Power; Vernon Public Utilities; and Riverside Public Utilities.