Eighty-three new energy research projects and two new research programs, representing an investment of $56 million, resulted from the first year's operation of the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research Program (PIER).
With a strategic plan that has emerged as a model of collaboration, the PIER program selected the top projects that showed promise to make electricity safer, more affordable, reliable and environmentally sound for Californians.
A just-released PIER program annual report shows that projects begun during the first year of the program range from the testing and design of advanced fuel cells, to the development of a marketable photovoltaic roof tile; and from the study of the effects of global climate change on California's ecosystem and economy to the evaluation of products which reduce or prevent bird collisions with powerlines and power facilities. Projects were chosen in five areas: energy-related environmental research, end-use efficiency, environmentally-preferred advanced generation technologies, renewable energy technologies and other strategic energy research, including public interest system reliability.
Under a deregulated electricity market, the PIER program assures continuation of public interest research, development and demonstration (RD&D) functions once held by the three major investor-owned electric utilities in California. The program makes available about $62 million a year, through 2001, for public interest RD&D projects to advance energy science or technology not adequately provided by regulated or competitive markets.
The Commission's PIER also provided about $17 million to 39 "transition" RD&D projects to preserve the benefits of on-going public interest research funded by the electric utilities prior to deregulation.
To ensure that the program will continue to provide significant public benefits in the years ahead, a PIER panel composed of distinguished and independent individuals in the fields of energy, environment, economy and research has been designated. The blue ribbon panel, as mandated in California's electricity restructuring laws, will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of PIER. It will submit a preliminary evaluation report to the Governor and the Legislature in March of next year.
Energy Commission Vice Chair David A. Rohy said the Commission intends to maximize PIER's public value by focusing future awards and projects with the greatest benefit to California; increasing the "purchasing power" of PIER funds through selective co-funding efforts with the federal government and other states; improving the project selection process; efficiently managing existing contracts; and initiating steps to effectively transfer the public-interest energy technologies resulting from PIER funding to the marketplace.
More information on the PIER program is available on the Commission's Web Site at:
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