Why Buy an Electric Car?

As a part of National Drive Electric Week, the Energy Commission’s plug-in electric vehicle expert Leslie Baroody offers a tour of her Nissan Leaf and hits the highlights of what it’s like to drive one in this video.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

This week is National Drive Electric Week , a chance for the curious to get into the driver’s seat and test drive a plug-in electric vehicle. Organized by Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association, there are events this week throughout California aimed to encourage more consumers into electric vehicles.

Because the transportation sector accounts for about 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and a significant amount of the emissions that form harmful smog pollution around the state, making the transition to cleaner zero-emissions vehicles is critical. Through its Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, authorized by Assembly Bill 8 (Perea/Skinner 2013), the California Energy Commission is working diligently to help speed this transition to a cleaner transportation fleet.

In fact, the Energy Commission has awarded more than $38 million in grants for over 8,600 electric chargers in California. This includes 3900 commercially accessible chargers, 3,800 residential chargers, 756 workplace chargers, and 107 DC Fast Chargers. The Energy Commission is also helping spur innovation in the medium and heavy duty vehicle space by investing $75 million for ZEV truck deployment, demonstration and manufacturing.

Just last month a driver purchased the 100,000th plug-in vehicle sold in California, building momentum toward achieving Gov. Brown's goal of having enough infrastructure to support 1.5 million electric cars on the road by 2025.

By building a refueling and charging infrastructure that’s convenient for drivers, California is leading the way for more drivers to opt in on a zero-emission vehicle and, by doing so, to help fight climate change.

Energy Efficient Winemaking

California is America’s top wine producing state, making 90 percent of all wine in the country. But did you know, with the help of the California Energy Commission, the wine industry has made significant strides in energy efficiency?

Part of winemaking involves removing tartrates, tiny crystals that form when tartaric acid and potassium bind together and create sediment in a wine bottle. To remove tartrates, producers have traditionally used an energy-intensive process called cold stabilization.

The Selective Tartrate Remove System (STAR)
Electrodialysis, however, can also remove the crystals and it uses a lot less energy. Winesecrets, a Sebastopol company, recognized this process and imported it from Europe. Winesecrets secured a $300,000 grant from the Energy Commission to demonstrate the process and document the costs and benefits. The process is called Selective Tartrate Removal System (STARS). Winesecrets showed winemakers STARS would more than pay for itself by saving wineries energy, water, and other business expenses, all while preserving wine quality.

In the decade since the Energy Commission funded the demonstration, many large wineries use the service, including 60 wineries in California. It’s estimated that more than 5 million gallons of wine is processed annually using STARS in California, saving electricity, natural gas and water.

Winesecrets co-founder Domingo Rodriguez said Energy Commission (CEC) funding was critical to success: “We came out of nothing with support from CEC and have rolled out in a major development with utility companies across North America.” CEC money was needed, Rodriguez said because, “private funds were not enough to fund prolonged start-up of business to sell electrodialysis. Without the matching grant we would not have been able to establish the business.”

To learn more about Energy Commission’s role in bringing energy efficiency to life, visit our research and development page.

Mexico's Energy Market Reforms Present Golden Opportunity for California

By Robert B. Weisenmiller and Michael Rossi

                   Robert B. Weisenmiller                              Michael Rossi

Coming on the heels of a successful trade mission to Mexico during which Governor Jerry Brown signed cooperative memorandums of understanding on trade and investment, clean energy, and climate change with top Mexican officials, Mexico has taken an important step toward reforming its energy sector to make it more open to foreign investment and market-driven innovation.

On August 11, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed legislation that will facilitate private investment and new development in its electricity and oil-and-gas sectors. For example, its electric utility (Comisión Federal de Electricidad or CFE) that has owned and operated the entire electricity market-from generation to transmission and distribution to grid management-will start operating more like California's electric utilities. These energy reforms significantly alter the structure of Mexico's energy industry and it comes as no surprise that Mexico has adopted these reforms.

California's innovative policies send a clear signal, provide incentives and generate market demand. That is a proven economic advantage of California being a climate and energy leader. We set a goal to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050 and are using energy efficiency, renewable energy and carbon pricing programs to meet that goal. We set a goal of having 33 percent of our energy come from renewable sources by 2020.

Furthermore, clean energy companies within our borders that are transforming our energy industry are in an ideal position to help Mexico implement its energy sector reforms as Mexico simultaneously seeks to meet its national targets to reduce emissions to half of 2000 levels by the year 2050 and generate a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2024. By doing so, California and U.S. energy companies will create more jobs and tax revenue on both sides of the border and build an even stronger economic partnership.

Last week, Governor Brown welcomed President Nieto to California to expand collaboration between California and Mexico on climate change, energy and trade. Over the coming months, officials in California and Mexico will initiate efforts to take action on the areas of cooperation identified in the MOUs and explore ways to further expand trade and investment, including in the energy sector.

As Governor Brown recently pointed out, California's and Mexico's "roots go back even deeper than the Pilgrim fathers." This joint history and geography have facilitated economic and environmental collaboration for more than a century. Mexico is now California's largest export market, and two-way trade in goods between Mexico and California totaled over $60.1 billion in 2013 - one of the largest two-way trade relationships between Mexico and a U.S. State. The energy reforms in Mexico allow for this collaboration to continue and result in greater economic growth and the achievement of climate and clean energy goals on both sides of the border.

Robert B. Weisenmiller is the chair of the California Energy Commission. Michael Rossi is a senior advisor to Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

Reducing the Risk of Power Outages

California’s immeasurable beauty continues to attract people from all over the world. However, the state’s large population, hot weather, and natural events from storms to wildfires, put considerable pressure on the state’s energy grid.

To reduce the risk of service disruption and power outages, the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program has funded the development of synchrophasor applications. Synchrophasors are electrical measurements taken across the grid at the same time. These synchronized measurements determine how the grid is actually operating. The Phasor-RTDMS is a real time synchrophasor software application that allows grid operators to monitor the power system and reduce the risk of power outages and disruptions. The Energy Commission funded the development of the Phasor-RTDMS™ grid operation software.

Hydrogen Fueling Stations for California

With a goal of 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles on California roads by 2025, the Energy Commission has directed nearly $50 million to boost the refueling network for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. How do hydrogen fuel cell vehicles fit into the future? Our alternative fuels expert Jim McKinney explains.

World’s First Ever Water-Free Laundry

In the midst of a drought, wouldn’t a water-free laundry be nice?

CO2Nexus water-free laundry machine.
Well, it’s here. With a grant from the Energy Commission, CO2Nexus is wrapping up an experimental project to bring a water-free laundry machine to market. Aramark, a respected Fortune 500 company, is demonstrating the technology in Los Angeles and piloting a process that doesn’t use a drop of water and can cut operational costs by 50 percent.

The process uses carbon dioxide as a textile cleaner. Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring and abundant gas that has excellent cleaning properties when converted to a liquid. When the carbon dioxide is returned to a gas, the fabric is clean and dry with minimal recyclable waste. Traditional dry cleaning is a similar process, but uses a petroleum or synthetic solvent and produces some emissions.

Results at the Aramark laundry, where the carbon dioxide process was used for “clean room” garments, found the process is gentler on fabric than a traditional wash-dry cycle, extending the life of clothing resulting in less shrinkage and wear.

While the process is designed for specialty garments, at one laundry, it is estimated the annual water savings would be 60 million gallons. That’s equal to the amount of water 850 homes would use in a year.

The process also uses less energy, cutting utility costs by nearly half.

Laundry cleaned with the water-free system.
The Energy Commission funds research and development projects that reduce emissions and save money. Visit our Research & Development page to learn more about the innovative projects we fund as part of our mission to conserve resources and transform the way we use energy.

New Solar Array Along the American River

On a slash of land along the American River just a stone’s throw from downtown Sacramento, the result of a California Energy Commission grant is sparkling in the sunlight.

It’s a solar array that will produce up to 1.5 megawatts of electricity that can be exported to the state’s grid. That is enough energy to power more than 400 average-size homes. The project makes use of land that once was part of an old landfill. The acreage has limited use because there is methane gas trapped below the surface that should not be disturbed.

Enter a field of solar panels, facing south, that will make use of the fastest growing sector of renewable energy. The project is under construction and expected to be completed later this summer. It is being developed by Conergy and will provide power to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).

California is the largest producer of solar power in the nation. It also ranks first in the nation for the number of solar jobs -- 47,223 in 2013 – according to the Solar Foundation.