Grid Conference Overview

California’s energy infrastructure needs an upgrade; most components are at least half a century old. The system was originally built to only send power one way from power plants to businesses and households.

Now, a proliferation of low-cost sensors, energy efficient semiconductors and switches, energy management platforms, low cost distributed generation and a new ability to collect and process massive amounts of data are radically transforming the way consumers buy and use electricity. These new tools increase the efficiency and reliability of our electric power grid while also giving customers access to an entirely new and expanded set of energy management tools that can save them money, improve their daily lives and have more independence in making energy decisions.

These changes allow for a more nimble, “intelligent” energy system that enables two way power supplies between power plants, businesses and households. This allows all parties to shift power back and forth between local feeder lines; provide better data management and analysis; and link communication networks with the ability to trigger changes in operations to these ‘smart’ devices and even household appliances, from pool pumps to HVAC systems. Today more and more customers are supplying solar energy back to the grid, while a nascent electric vehicles sector may soon allow consumers to store and supply power when needed, as well as control their own transportation fuel supply. The installation of communication-enabled smart meters and thermostats are allowing both customers and utilities to collect and analyze large data sets that can be used to improve the efficiency of the system, as well as end use by consumers.

California’s three investor owned utilities will invest 60% of their capital expenditures through 2018 on grid upgrades. All of California’s largest energy policy entities have one or more proceedings involving smart grid, energy data, rate restructuring, demand response, and battery storage with intelligent energy ramifications. Now is the time to provide a more unified vision of where the state should go and encourage California to invest in tomorrow’s intelligent energy system. And most importantly, we can partner with many of the world’s top companies operating in California to build this system and grow jobs and revenues in the process.

Despite the opportunities, there are challenges to realizing the potential of intelligent energy systems. These include the lack of a common vision for the tools and capacities to be built into the distribution system; insufficient technical capacity of distribution grids to handle the massive two-way data flow; the lack of pricing structures and other incentives that encourage highly efficient energy management; and limited transparency of energy usage data that provide opportunities for utilities and other service providers to bring new products to market that benefit consumers.

In particular, the conference will focus on the following key issues and questions:

Customer Energy Data – Access and Uses

  • How quickly can California provide customers their own energy use data in a way that educates them in support of distributed generation, energy efficiency, load shifting and peak shaving considerations?

Electricity Rate Design – Rates and their Impact on Consumer Behavior

  • How quickly can California implement time-based pricing that supports distributed generation, energy efficiency, load shifting and peak shaving considerations while paying for infrastructure?

Grid Infrastructure – Planning and Building a more Reliable, Resilient and Flexible Grid.

  • How can California create a more intelligent energy system on both sides of the meter to help ensure the future reliability of existing supplies through 2020?