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 PeMe Nieto signed legislation that will facilitate private investment and new development in its electricity and oil-and-gas sectors. For example, its electric utility (ComisiĆ³n 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.

Keep Buildings Airtight

Picture this: you have your house insulated but are still too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer, and your energy bills are racking up.

Sound familiar? This problem is usually caused by small, open areas in a building exterior where warm or cool air from the inside escapes or exterior air sneaks in. Using the air conditioner or heater to compensate for it being too hot or cold due to the gaps can drive up energy bills.

The California Energy Commission awarded a grant to the Western Cooling Efficiency Center at UC Davis to research methods and technologies to save energy. As a result, the center developed an aerosolized sealant spray that detects and seals areas where air leaks, which could help reduce up to 30 percent of the energy needed to heat and cool a home or office.

Aerosolized sealant spray used during construction
The potential for this product is dramatic. If all commercial and residential buildings used aerosolized sealing, monthly savings could exceed $1.5 billion per year. In addition, the sealant spray can lower construction costs. Instead of taking eight hours, contractors can seal a 1,200 square foot home in half that time.

The Energy Commission funds research and development projects that reduce emissions and save money. Visit our website to learn more about the innovative projects we fund as part of our mission to conserve resources and transform the way we use energy.

A Window Even Smarter Than Your Phone?

Have you ever been in a room where the light and heat coming through the window made you uncomfortable? There’s a cool clean technology that is designed to fix that.

Milpitas-based View Incorporated has developed a lower cost dynamic glass technology that detects the amount of sunlight passing through a window and—when the window detects too much light—automatically tints itself to reduce unwanted glare.

32,000 sf office building on Indio Way in Sunnyvale, CA
The innovative technology was funded in part by the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program and is now commercially available.

The glass also reduces energy cost by enabling greater temperature control and blocking excessive heat, which mitigates the need for air conditioning on hot days.

In fact, a study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that smart windows could reduce peak cooling loads by at least 19 percent and lighting loads by 48 percent. In existing commercial buildings, assuming a 10 percent market penetration, this technology could save California ratepayers more than 500 gigawatts a year, which translates to more than $65 million annually in lighting energy costs alone.

W Hotel lounge area, San Francisco, California
This technology has been installed in buildings throughout California, including the W Hotel in San Francisco and the Hilton Universal City in Los Angeles.

It is the latest example of how the Energy Commission is funding entrepreneurs and bringing technologies from “lab to life.”

Solar Energy Continues to Set Generation Records

There is a lot of record-setting going on as California continues to produce more and more solar energy.

A new study published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) stated that total solar electricity output in May 2014 was three times what it was just one year ago, when measured as a percentage of the total California Independent System Operator (California ISO) electricity load. Solar accounted for 6 percent of the May 2014 load. It accounted for 2 percent of the May 2013 load.

The EIA also reported that on June 1 of this year the California ISO recorded a record midday hourly peak of 4767 megawatts of utility-generated solar electricity delivered in the California grid.

Note: Data do not include distributed generation solar electricity where output is behind-the-meter.
The report added the good news will continue through 2014 as utility-scale solar installations are expected to remain at a brisk pace because of declining solar manufacturing costs and the federal investment tax credit in place through the end of 2016.