Energy Commission Grant Helps Airline Kitchen Land Big Energy Savings

As the state's primary energy policy and planning agency, it’s not unusual for the California Energy Commission to have its fingers in many pots including the ones used to prepare meals for airline passengers flying out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The Energy Commission awarded a $900,000 Building Natural Gas Technology grant in 2014 to Fisher-Nickel, Inc. The project's goal was to demonstrate to the commercial food service community the business value of replacing standard cooking equipment with energy efficient items that improve cooking performance and significantly reduce energy costs.

A year later, Fisher-Nickel began setting up demonstration projects in the kitchen of a popular restaurant in San Diego, a large national hotel in Pleasanton, and a dining hall at an University of California campus. The company also partnered with Southern California Gas Co. for a demonstration project at the LAX kitchen of Gate Gourmet, a Swiss company that provides global airline catering services. As many as 32,000 meals per day are prepared at the LAX facility for passengers on domestic and international flights

One of the first things that Fisher-Nickel did at the Gate Gourmet was replace a 60-gallon steam kettle that has an annual operating cost of $5,000 with a large steamer that cost less than $1,000 a year to operate.

The company also replaced a conventional broiler with a conveyor-type broiler, a single oven with a double-stack convection oven, and a six-burner range with a four-burner model. Topping it off was new energy efficient cookware. In all, the new equipment is expected to reduce annual natural gas use by more than 9,100 therms – that’s equivalent to what 60 average California home kitchens would use in a year.

The LAX demonstration is scheduled to wrap up in mid-February. The other demonstrations will be completed in 2017. Fisher-Nickel will present the results from the demonstration projects to the Energy Commission.

If successful, the demonstrations could become a model for the industry. With more than 93,000 commercial food service facilities in the state, that would be a big pot of savings, not to mention, a significant reduction in natural gas use.

Energy Commission Adopts Lighting Standards That Will Save More Than $4 Billion in Electricity Costs

The California Energy Commission today adopted first-in-the-nation energy standards for the next generation of light bulbs. The standards cover small-diameter directional lamps, often used in track lighting, and general purpose light-emitting diodes – commonly called LEDs – used to replace typical existing home lighting.

With these new standards, consumers will save more than $4 billion in aggregate over the first 13 years and conserve enough electricity to power all the households in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties (about 400,000 average homes). Bulbs that meet the new standards are already available to consumers.

The adopted standards will save consumers money in electricity and bulb replacement costs. For a $4 investment in the more efficient small-diameter directional lamps, the Energy Commission estimates consumers will save nearly $250 in reduced energy and bulb replacement costs when averaged over 11 years. The lifetime savings for general purpose LEDs range from $4.50 to $12 and will likely grow as purchase prices continue to decline.

Small-diameter directional lamps
Small-diameter directional lamps are often used at commercial sites, such as stores and museums, for track lighting. The standards cover bulbs with a diameter of 2.25 inches or less and will go into effect January 1, 2018.

The standards for LEDs include omnidirectional, directional, and decorative bulbs, as well as LEDs designed for retrofitting the covered socket types. LED bulbs consume less energy than other types of light bulbs and have a longer lifespan, making the lifetime energy savings far greater than the incremental cost.

The standards for LEDs include efficiency and quality improvements to initially take effect January 1, 2018. Additional amendments to strengthen efficiency and limit power in standby mode take effect July 1, 2019.

More information about the lighting standards are available, including a news release and frequently asked questions.

Energy Commission Plans Separate Workshops on Wind and Geothermal

The California Energy Commission will hold workshops on January 28 to help fan ideas for upgrading aging wind turbines and unearth ways to increase potential from geothermal power resources.

The wind energy workshop, which is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to noon, will examine ways to make wind repowering profitable and economically attractive for generators. Discussions will center on the challenges facing the wind industry, advances in technology and potential paths for research and development. Many of California’s wind turbines are older and have become more expensive to operate, harder to keep online and less efficient at capturing wind energy.

The geothermal workshop, which is scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m., will identify the research most needed to help expand the contributions of geothermal energy to the state’s energy mix. Discussions will center on barriers, such as cost and storage needs, that force most geothermal power plants to operate in baseload mode instead of as flexible, quickly-dispatchable power generators.

Information from the workshops will help the Energy Commission develop a grant solicitation that is planned for release later this year.

Both workshops are at the Warren-Alquist State Energy Building, 1516 Ninth Street, Sacramento. For more details on the wind energy workshop or information on how to participate remotely, click here. For more details on the geothermal workshop or information on how to participate remotely, click here.

Energy Commission and U.S. Department of Energy Collaborating on Energy Innovation

The third annual meeting between California’s primary energy policy and planning agency and the advanced energy innovation branch of the U.S. Department of Energy is being held today in Sacramento.

The California Energy Commission and the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E)  provide millions in funding to advance energy research and innovations. The two government agencies want to identify commercialization pathways for new and transformative energy innovations and discuss approaches to leverage and improve current funding processes. Both entities will hear from co-funded project teams about the successes, challenges and opportunities for transitioning their innovations into the market.

The Energy Commission signed the first ever Memorandum of Understanding three years ago with ARPA-E to collaborate on promising energy innovations that reduce energy costs, enhance electric service reliability and minimize environmental impacts related to the production, delivery, and use of energy.

Since then, both agencies have co-funded more than half a dozen innovation projects including a small low-cost natural gas storage tank for light-duty vehicles and a molten salt-based storage process that could reduce the cost to capture and distribute electricity generated from concentrated solar electric technologies.

Energy Commission Chair Robert Weisenmiller and ARPA‐E Director Ellen Williams are among the presenters at the full-day meeting. Topics during the technical breakout sessions include electric systems integration, clean electric generation and storage, and opportunities to bring innovations to market.

The collaboration continues in Washington, D.C. next month when Chair Weisenmiller joins a roundtable discussion on state-based resources and policy trends driving clean energy at the seventh annual ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit.

The summit, which is scheduled to run from February 29 to March 2, is one of the largest energy, technology, research and development events in the nation. Scheduled summit speakers include U.S. Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz and General Electric Vice Chair Beth Comstock.

San Diego a Pacesetter for Clean Energy Future

By David Hochschild and Byron Washom

Clean energy is on a roll. This summer, President Obama launched the EPA's Clean Power Plan to clean up America's aging fleet of power plants, the largest contributor to our nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

In September, Gov. Brown signed landmark legislation ensuring California will get at least 50 percent of its electricity from clean sources like wind, solar and geothermal power by 2030.

Last month in Paris, 195 nations approved the strongest climate agreement in history, setting the world on the long-term path to get off fossil fuels this century. But the boldest action of all may be at the local level.

Last month, San Diego became the largest city in the United States to adopt a binding and enforceable 100 percent renewable energy mandate for the city by 2035. The policy is part of the city's new climate plan which will cut the city's greenhouse gas emissions in half over the next 20 years.

San Diego's leadership is particularly significant given the role cities play with climate change. It is estimated by the United Nations that, while occupying just 2 percent of the world's land, cities are responsible for up to 70 percent of greenhouse gases. The need for cities to lead has never been greater. In what has become known as the "airpocalypse," Beijing officials recently issued a red alert, the highest possible, in response to the threat to public health posed by toxic air pollution.

UCSD a Model Campus

The stakes are high indeed but so are the opportunities In the years ahead, California can lead the way forward and send a postcard from the future to the rest of the world by showcasing the best practices in carbon reduction strategy and technology. To do this, our state's campuses can plan a critical role as laboratories of projects and policies that can be scaled up. UC president Janet Napolitano has gotten the ball rolling by setting a goal for the entire UC system become carbon neutral by 2025.

UC San Diego, in particular, has been a pioneer. Today, the campus is covered with solar panels, has a microgrid, self generates 85 percent of its own electricity and 95 percent of its heating and cooling requirements and has the largest electric energy storage system of any university in the world. UC San Diego does this at approximately 40 percent of the cost that a comparable utility customer would pay and a GHG emission rate well below the average California energy mix.

On-campus wind and solar installations alone cannot meet all the energy needs of the school. So in collaboration with the City of San Diego, UC San Diego and the private sector entered into an agreement in 2010 that captured the surplus methane at the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant and utilized it to demonstrate the world's largest commercially available fuel cell project which also captures the waste heat to produce an additional 350 tons of chilling capacity to service its Jacobs Medical Center.

Renewable Energy Drives Economy

UC San Diego has built one of the state's largest electric vehicle charging networks for the workplace. Students, faculty, and staff will have access to more than 75 EV charging stations at competitive rates and attractive leases from auto manufacturers.

Taken together, these steps strengthen our state and create the building blocks for the economy of the future. Critics of California's clean energy policies once said that starting down this path would lead to a failed economy, increasing unemployment and rolling blackouts. But over the past five years as California has ramped up to 25 percent renewables, the economy is growing, unemployment has been cut in half and, for the first time, there are now more Californians working in the renewable energy industry than for all the state's electric utilities combined. Meanwhile, the state has not experienced a single rolling blackout due to renewable energy.

Entering the race toward a clean energy future has proven to be a smart investment. Our state is now the pace car in this race and we must accelerate even faster. With the leadership of campuses like UC San Diego and cities like San Diego, California can lead the way forward to a cleaner, healthier energy era.

David Hochschild is a commissioner at the California Energy Commission. Byron Washom is director of strategic energy initiatives at UC San Diego.

This commentary was originally published in the San Diego Business Journal on January 7, 2016.

Center Opens to Advance Clean Transportation in San Joaquin Valley

A new transportation center has opened in San Joaquin Valley to help the region attain its air quality targets by accelerating the use of zero emission vehicles and clean fuels.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center is funded through a $1.2 million grant from the California Energy Commission to CALSTART. The center will provide resources, technical assistance and support for the area’s residents, businesses, fleet owners and local governments.

The center is located at the historic Fresno Chandler Executive Airport, dedicated in 1929, in a building constructed as part of the Works Progress Administration. As the historic hub of transportation for the Valley, the center will connect the past with the future of transportation. It is also conveniently located near the juncture of four freeways, down the street from the city’s fleet center with ample parking.

“The San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center is part of a larger strategy to address regional clean-air needs across the state,” said Energy Commissioner Janea A. Scott. “The Energy Commission is pleased to provide a $1.2 million grant to fund this center, which will help local residents, governments and businesses collaborate on advanced transportation solutions and accelerate their progress toward meeting the Valley’s clean-air goals.”

The Energy Commission has funded five regional centers in the state to facilitate the advancement of clean transportation solutions towards attaining its clean-air goals. Other centers have opened or will be opening in Berkeley, Davis (under a federal cost-sharing program), Los Angeles with an office in San Diego, and another location that is still to be determined.

Joseph Oldham, director of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center and a Fresno native, said the center will focus primarily on expanding electric charging stations and working with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District on all-electric transit and heavy-duty truck technology using cleaner fuels.

Skilled Workers Needed for Advanced Transportation Technology

As California leads the world toward a cleaner, more sustainable environment, the advanced technologies developed require a skilled workforce to operate and maintain new systems. The California Energy Commission provides grants through its Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program to help the public and private sectors prepare workers.

A grant agreement with the Employment Training Panel focuses on training existing workers such as first responders, producers of alternative fuels and manufacturers. Training contracts require employers to commit matching funds. A grant agreement with the California Employment Development Department focuses on green transportation training needs. Another agreement provided support for California Community College curriculum development and specialized equipment needs.

For example, the Energy Commission provided a grant to Foothill-De Anza Community College District in the Silicon Valley to train up to 378 students on how to inspect alternative vehicles, maintain and repair them. Lift the hood of a hydrogen fuel-electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and the vehicles look vastly different from gas-powered cars. A similar grant provided training for up to 438 students in the Los Angeles Community College District.

Other Energy Commission grants have supported instruction in turning recycled waste into renewable compressed natural gas (CNG), maintenance of CNG engines, and special lab skills to produce ethanol in the San Joaquin Valley.

Energy Commission funding is helping train Pleasanton workers to produce lithium for electric vehicle batteries. It is showing workers in Santa Ana and Fontana how to store and deliver alternative fuel for heavy-duty trucks and buses.

As Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. has said, “California has cut carbon pollution and grown its economy at the same time – and so can the rest of the world.” With help from Energy Commission grants, California forges ahead to lead the world to cleaner energy.

Instructional Videos Help Public Participate in Energy Commission Proceedings

Public participation is a key component in California Energy Commission activities. It gives members of the public, interested parties, and stakeholders the opportunity to provide valuable information on matters affecting their lives. This input is welcomed by Commissioners and encouraged for all public meetings, hearings, workshops and rulemakings.

A helpful resource for the public at these proceedings is the Energy Commission’s Public Adviser Alana Mathews, an attorney appointed by the Governor to ensure fair and adequate participation from members of the public, interested parties and stakeholders. She cannot represent or advocate for a particular position. The Public Adviser's role is to provide guidance in understanding Energy Commission procedures so that participation in proceedings is effective and meaningful.

The Public Adviser's Office participated in four short video tutorials on how to participate in Energy Commission meetings, each addressing the most concerns and inquiries from the public.

The videos explain the role of the Public Adviser, show how to participate in business meetings, discuss the process for commenting electronically on the Energy Commission’s website, and provide directions for listening and participating remotely by WebEx.

For more information on public participation in Energy Commission proceedings, please contact the Public Adviser’s Office at (916) 654-4489 or email