By Rachel Rockwell
On September 2, 2020, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued D.20-08-042, which renews the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) (“the Program”) through December 31, 2030. The decision states that EPIC is the largest state-level public interest energy research program in the country, and its primary purpose, among other things, is to invest in greenhouse gas emission mitigation and low-emission vehicles and transportation. The CPUC approved an annual budget of $148 million for the first five years of the Program’s extension, with an opportunity for inflation adjustment for the second five years.
D.11-12-035 first authorized the program in 2012 to order three major California utility companies to create ratepayer surcharges for the year of 2012 to be the sole source of funding for the program. D.12-05-037 then established three, three-year investment periods for the program through December 2020. In 2012, this same decision directed the hiring of an outside consultant upon completion of the first three-year investment period to evaluate the Program’s management and effectiveness and identify opportunities for improvement. The resulting Evaluation Report in 2017 found EPIC was on track to achieve its program objectives of producing energy innovations and helping California meet its energy policy goals.
Based in part on this evaluation, and public comment from the August 27, 2020 voting meeting, the CPUC concluded that EPIC has yielded tangible benefits thus far and believes it has the potential to help California meet its energy savings and carbon reduction commitments moving forward. The Commission referenced in its decision comments from utility companies that the decision terminated their involvement in the program. The Commission responded in its decision that it is not terminating the utilities’ involvement but has simply pushed back a determination on their exact role in order to develop further detail and plans for the utilities. The decision also stated that the CPUC revised its decision to respond to concerns that the program does not provide certain ratepayer territories with enough value, although it did not explain what specific revisions were made. Some positive results the CPUC referenced include: advancements in renewable integration that promotes a cleaner, modernized grid, more adaptable to electric vehicles; ratepayer benefits; and potential savings estimates from EPIC investments that nearly match the Program’s budget itself.
The 2020 decision states that Phase Two will address the role of the utility companies in the Program moving forward, who are included to facilitate research and development. The decision gives the companies 30 days after issuance of Phase One to file opening briefs.