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EPIC Symposium Showcase

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 16.12.12 - EPIC Symposium Showcase blog photo 
Thought Leaders panel
On Dec. 1, 2016, the California Energy Commission held its second annual showcase of Electric Program Investment Charge Program (EPIC) innovation grant recipient projects at the Sacramento Convention Center, and our staff attended. The EPIC program provides grants for projects at various developmental stages, from lab, to demonstration projects, to market facilitation/adoption. The event was free and accessible via live stream as well as in person. Roughly 200-300 were present at the event.  The symposium had three tracks with a lunchtime thought leaders discussion and lecture. The three tracks were: 1) energy efficiency and zero-net energy, 2) electricity generation, and 3) power system modernization.


As the keynote speaker, California Energy Commission Chair Weissenmiller kicked off the event, citing record low sea ice, global cooling hot spots, and the critical role that California policy will play in emissions reduction. Referencing the Governor’s State of the State address, Chair Weissenmiller cited reductions in transportation and energy efficiency as the two largest sources, requiring transformation of communities, government structures, and power systems to achieve the statewide 2030 goals.

For the lunchtime thought leaders discussion, Cassandra Sweet of the Wall Street Journal moderated a panel of senior utility staff, a Scripps professor, and Chair Weissenmiller. Mark Irwin of Southern California Edison, Steve Malnight of PG&E, Jonathan Woldemariam of SDG&E, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, joined Chair Weissenmiller in discussing their vision for the power sector of the future.  Dr. Ramanathan emphasized that there is still time to avert catastrophic, irreversible climate change.  To this end, he advocated converting to electric all end-uses, generating electricity from primarily renewable sources, and converting landfill gas to hydrogen. Other topics discussed by the panel were the need for residential customer panels to be correctly sized for solar, availability of batteries for storing power at the customer site, charging of electric vehicles, micro grids, the need for consistency among inverter protocols, and inconsistencies in U.S. transmission inter-connection procedures – especially compared to Germany.

One of the highlights of the breakout panels was a substantive discussion of emerging solutions for the water-energy nexus. Researchers from UC Davis presented their unique design for bovine cooling, intended reduce agricultural water use required to keep cows cool. The researchers partnered with a local air conditioning manufacture to produce cooling mats and convection coolers to replace water sprayed from large nozzles above feed troughs. The innovation is especially noteworthy as it increases milk production in cows, and reduces water and related energy use in the agricultural sector, a difficult to reach sector for energy efficiency programs.

Slides of the presentations and a recording of the symposium are available on the California Energy Commission’s EPIC webpage. All 23 of the presenter’s slide decks are available for download.

Director Blog: Minds + Machines

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Below is a blog from Elizaveta Malashenko, the Director of the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division

Mind and MachinesIn mid-November, I attended Minds + Machines, a conference dedicated to the industrial Internet. My main takeaway is that the digital transformation of asset heavy industries is starting to become reality. It may be tempting to dismiss this technology as fancy tools that don’t fundamentally change the industries that have largely remained the same for a hundred years or longer. But there is something profound that’s beginning to take shape. The interconnectedness of assets, sensors, cloud computing, and data analytics are getting to the point of inflection that will in the near future allow for operation of energy and transportation industries in ways that could have never been done before.

The concept that best illustrates the potential of digital transformation is something called a “digital twin”. This term is used to describe a digital replicate of an asset that is associated with all of the available data about that asset. A digital twin of an asset can be used to maintain traceability of all its components, model how an asset would react under certain conditions, monitor condition of the asset in real time, and predict and prevent failure. Digital twin concept can be further extended to have a “process twin” and a “system twin”, with data being used at every level to inform operators and optimize performance. With a full implementation of the digital twin concept, it will be realistic to eliminate preventable down time and greatly improve safety.

The Minds + Machines conference also showcased several specific technologies that I found interesting, including:

   - A “black box” on locomotives that records all events as the train travels, in a manner analogous to a “black box” on airplanes. GE locomotives used in the U.S. already have that technology and its wider adoption is growing. This will prove very useful for investigation of rail accidents and near misses.

   - A smart drone, specifically configured to fly over power lines and analyze information in real-time. Typical drones that have been used up until this point have relied on an operator interpreting information that’s being streamed/recorded by the drone. Smart drones are able to identify issues using advances analytics and can automatically notify operators of areas with vegetation encroachment, sagging lines, cracked insulators, and other issues. This technology can allow for more frequent and safer inspection of power lines, something that can be particularly valuable in California to help manage fire risks due to drought conditions and tree mortality.

   - Augmented reality eyewear that can assist engineers and technicians in real-time as they perform different tasks. Augmented reality can display manufacturer information about a component, demonstrate how to assemble/disassemble complex pieces of equipment, and provide safety guidance.

This digital transformation of energy and transportation industries will create very interesting opportunities in regulatory space. Assets of the future will continuously provide data about their condition at a much more granular level than what’s available right now from manual, infrequent inspections. It will soon be possible to model assets before they are put in service, set specific rules for how to handle abnormal conditions, and program controls that will automatically ensure compliance with regulatory standards. This capability will allow regulators to create much more sophisticated policies that are risk-based and performance driven – something that has been extremely challenging to do with a lot of manual processes and data analysis. Of course, there are a lot of things that will need to happen to make this work, including having a digital infrastructure that has traceable, verifiable, and reliable information.

Consumer Affairs Branch Data Available Online

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In a previous blog posting we shared with you that our Consumer Affairs Branch is the first line of defense for utility customers. Our Representatives can assist with billing and service matters related to natural gas, electric, water, or telecommunications services. We can answer questions, process complaints, and help resolve application denials associated with our telecommunications low income program (California LifeLine) and energy low income program (CARE).

Our Consumer Affairs Branch stays busy; we received more than 34,600 consumer contacts in 2015! 

At today’s Voting Meeting, our Consumer Affairs Branch manager gave a presentation on the sources and uses of Consumer Affairs Branch data.

To assist internal and external stakeholders with information, the data is reported publically online.

The Consumer Affairs Branch will continue to make updates to its database and improve data quality in 2017.

Read our most recent blog postings in the sidebar at right.

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