All Californians Deserve Clean Tech Access: Keep EPIC Funded

All Californians deserve continued access to clean energy technologies funded by the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Program.

Californians have benefited from the EPIC program since 2011 by funding research and development of successful clean energy solutions. The Program is up for renewal this year through a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) proceeding—Rulemaking 19-10-005. Since 2011, the Program has proven its successful history of positive impacts to California’s economy, and EPIC has addressed critical barriers to increase the deployment of clean energy technologies. For these reasons, the CPUC should continue funding EPIC at current levels.

The CPUC is conducting its own due diligence before deciding on the terms of EPIC’s renewal. The questions that the CPUC looks to answer through this proceeding are:

  • Based on its ten-year track record, has the Program yielded quantifiable results?
  • Have low-income and disadvantaged communities benefited from the Program?
  • If renewed, what should be the Program’s priorities and guiding principles?
  • How can the Program be improved, and how should the Program be evaluated?

The answer to the first two questions is a resounding yes. Answers to the last two questions will inform ongoing program oversight to ensure EPIC’s continued success and improvement.

A Short Story of EPIC Success

Almost a decade ago, the Commission established the EPIC Program for the purpose of funding research on clean energy technologies. Successful technologies have been, and will be, deployed to the market so that all Californians can benefit from them. EPIC also ensures that low-income and disadvantaged communities can access these technologies and enjoy cleaner electricity at lower costs and without interruption.

EPIC is administered by the California Energy Commission (CEC) and our state’s three electric investor owned utilities—Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). To date, more than $1 billion have been allocated to fund EPIC projects, 80 percent of which are administered by the CEC while the remaining 20 percent is divided among the three utilities.

So far, EPIC has been successful in contributing to California’s 2045 goal of a 100 percent zero-carbon electricity market. A recent independent evaluation of EPIC concluded that the Program’s portfolio is on track to help California to advance its clean energy objectives, provide benefits to utility customers and support our state’s energy policy goals. More than 34 technologies and related service companies have been successfully commercialized through EPIC, and dozens more are moving towards commercialization. Sixty-five percent of EPIC’s on-the-ground funding have gone to projects that benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities. The California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development Initiative (CalSEED), funded through EPIC, has awarded $3.8 million to start-up companies operating in disadvantaged communities and led by underrepresented minorities. As of February 2020, companies that received EPIC funding attracted more than $1.8 billion in follow-on private investment.

The CPUC Should Continue Funding EPIC

The CPUC has organized this EPIC renewal proceeding into two phases. Phase 1 will focus on whether EPIC should continue to exist, and Phase 2 will figure out how the Program should continue to operate by identifying improvements as well as further developing its priorities.

NRDC recently submitted comments through Phase 1 of the proceeding recommending that the CPUC renew EPIC with its current levels of funding, that the CEC be retained as the main administrator of this program, and that the Program be rolled out in five-year investment cycles to provide continuity to its projects.

Given the impacts of COVID -19 on California’s economy, it is crucial to continue supporting the development of technologies that contribute to our clean energy goals while helping low-income communities save money and continued access to the benefits of technological advancements.

About the Authors

Sergio Sanchez Lopez

Sustainable Energy Fellow

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