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Cal Energy Commission adopts report outlining how state transforming transportation system to meet climate goals

The California Energy Commission adopted its 2014 Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) Update, which outlines, among many things, how the state is working to transform the transportation system to zero- and near-zero technologies and fuels to meet its climate and clean air goals. This report highlights the importance of incentives in helping speed this transition and specifically explores the role Assembly Bill 8, which makes more than $2 billion available for public investment, can play in helping to achieve this progress.

The Energy Commission also approved almost $16 million in research grants to help develop the next generation of energy efficient technologies for commercial and residential buildings; $11 million for projects to convert feedstock and waste into biofuels; and about $900,000 for natural gas innovations.

IEPR. The IEPR, produced by the Energy Commission every two years and updated in alternate years, assesses major energy issues facing the state. This is the first IEPR to focus primarily on transportation. It finds that California is making good progress in transforming the state’s transportation system to a low carbon, zero emission transportation system with nearly 120,000 plug-in electric vehicles on California’s roads, a growing hydrogen fuel cell market and significant biofuels investments.

Key transportation-related elements highlighted by the report include:

  • Hydrogen fuel cell technology. Studies and automakers suggest that California needs an initial network of about 100 strategically placed hydrogen refueling stations to ensure that hydrogen fuel is available for the first wave of fuel cell electric vehicles. Through AB 8, the California Legislature has directed the Energy Commission to invest up to $20 million per year—20% of the annual Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP) funding—to build this preliminary infrastructure.

    While the state has put several strategies in place to help reduce early investment risks for this technology and ensure that stations are ready to serve the first wave of fuel cell electric vehicles, station and equipment costs continue to be a barrier. More directed research on hydrogen station storage and dispensing equipment and innovative funding partnerships are needed in this area to bring down hydrogen infrastructure costs and advance market deployment.

  • Plug-in electric vehicles. The PEV market continues to grow in California with 20 models of full battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles offered by almost every automobile manufacturer to California consumers. In 2013, PEV sales were triple 2012 levels, and as of December 2014 more than 118,000 PEVs were sold in California, representing about 40% of national PEV sales.

  • Charging infrastructure. Electric vehicle charging infrastructure deployment continues to be a key challenge. Challenges associated with electric charging station deployment in multi-unit dwellings are one of the biggest barriers to increased plug-in electric vehicles adoption. These challenges include cost; the availability of power suppl; the proximity to metering equipment; physical limitations in high-rise units; parking issues; homeowner association requirements; allocation of charging costs; and the complexity of decision-making.

    Furthermore, while PEV drivers have taken advantage of the increasing number of workplace and public chargers available in key metropolitan areas of the state, the costs of installation and equipment continue to limit accessibility of charge points in these locations.

    Charging infrastructure is expected to expand, however, as a result of a December 2014 California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) decision authorizing utility ownership of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Continued strategic investments in charging infrastructure at residential, workplace, multi-unit dwellings, and public sites along with regional readiness plans will be needed to continue advancing adoption of plug-in electric vehicles.vehicle

  • Integrating EVs with the grid. Greater attention to vehicle and electric grid integration will be needed as well. Electric vehicles have the potential to benefit the grid by using their batteries to help manage electricity loads throughout the day—a growing concern as renewable solar and wind energy continue to grow in California. To realize these opportunities, smart charging technology that incorporates the flexibility to communicate with customers and electric utilities becomes essential to electric vehicle operation. Further collaboration is needed on research, demonstration, deployment, planning, and market facilitation related to vehicle-to-grid projects.

  • Transitioning to zero- and near-zero emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. California’s fleets of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles total more than 900,000 vehicles and include long haul tractors; refuse hauling trucks; package delivery vans, medium-duty work trucks and shuttles; and buses. Representing about 3.7% of the total vehicle fleet in 2012, they consumed more than 20% of the fuel, were responsible for up to 23% of transportation-related GHG emissions, and 30% of total NOxemissions.

    Market uptake of the cleanest trucks remains slow due to cost. Targeted incentives to help bring down the cost of electric trucks are an area of opportunity.

  • Lower carbon intensity fuels. Cleaner fuels with lower carbon intensity numbers, such as biofuels, have the potential to provide immediate emission reduction benefits.

  • Funding. Exploring opportunities to leverage funding may help to achieve deeper benefits on a faster time frame.

  • Oil-by-rail. Although California is working to reduce petroleum use, petroleum-based fuels continue to account for about 92% of the state’s transportation needs. California refineries have increasingly turned to foreign sources of crude oil as production in California and Alaska has declined. On the other hand, there has been a rebound in US oil production as a whole due to the widespread use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

    This increase in domestic production has outpaced the ability of existing pipeline distribution systems, necessitating a shift in crude oil delivery. Oil producers have discounted prices to allow the traditionally more expensive mode of rail delivery to become economically viable for oil refiners outside production areas. As a result, California refineries are pursuing crude-by-rail receiving terminal projects to obtain discounted crude oil and improve profitability.

    Moving forward, state agencies should continue to be proactive and work together to implement the recommendations in 2014 report Oil by Rail Safety in California; monitor the status of federal rulemakings and proceedings to ensure they capture recommendations made by the state; remain open and flexible to the potential need for additional funding; and acquire the data needed to address safety concerns.

Biofuels. Biofuels projects are funded through the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP), which supports technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on petroleum-based fuels. Recipients included:

  • Aemetis: $3 million to convert grain sorghum feedstock into 9 million gallons of low-carbon transportation ethanol fuel and to evaluate the potential for developing in-state supplies of grain sorghum as a feedstock that will continue to reduce the carbon intensity of fuel production.

  • UrbanX Renewables Group: $5 million to construct a biorefinery in Southgate capable of producing at least 7.5 million gallons of renewable diesel fuel annually.

  • City of Napa: $3 million to modify its materials diversion facility allowing it to convert 25,000 tons of organic waste annually into 328,000 diesel gallons equivalent of renewable natural gas (RNG) and to install an RNG refueling station to supply its fleet of waste and recycling trucks.

  • ARFVTP funding was also used to provide $128,000 to the Woodland Joint Unified School District to install 16 plug-in electric vehicle charging stations throughout the city. The charging stations will be free to the public.

Natural Gas. Natural gas projects were funded by the Public Interest Energy Research Program (PIER), which provides funding for public interest energy research, development and demonstration projects. Recipients included:

  • University of California, San Diego: $150,000 to demonstrate a catalyst that can remove tar from producer gas in a biomass gasifier. This innovation could eliminate expensive downstream gas cleaning processes currently required prior to producing bio-synthetic natural gas.

  • Stanford University: $150,000 to demonstrate a new sensor technology that could significantly reduce the cost of renewable natural gas production by providing rapid feedback during synthetic gas production.

  • Pyro-E LLC: $150,000 to demonstrate a micro combined heat and power (CHP) device that uses solid-state pyroelectric materials to convert heat directly into electricity. The device will be more efficient, more reliable and cost less than micro CHP devices that use traditional thermoelectrics.

  • Quantitative BioSciences: $150,000 to demonstrate a process that cleans biogas from wastewater treatment by passing it through oval “raceway” ponds that continuously circulate algae and water and leave purified biomethane that can be compressed and used as a transportation fuel.

  • Otherlab: $145,000 to determine the feasibility of using spiral tubes made of braided fiber composite to create a low-profile gas tank that can free up cargo space and increase the driving range of compressed natural gas vehicles.

  • Ascend Energy Systems: $146,000 to determine the feasibility of using a newly developed small solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) that can utilize natural gas directly to generate electricity in an electric all-terrain vehicle. The new technology will increase efficiency compared to natural gas vehicles and decrease total emissions. It will also serve as a model for using SOFCs in larger hybrid on-road vehicles.


  • California Energy Commission. 2015. 2014 Draft Integrated Energy Policy Report Update. Publication Number: CEC-100-2014-001.


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