For Immediate Release: September 12, 2013
Media Contact: Kelly M. Kell - 916-654-4989


Energy Commission Funds Projects to Advance 21st Century Electricity Grid
Researchers to Address Challenges in Grid and Smart Home Technologies

SACRAMENTO - The California Energy Commission has awarded $449,808 to advance new technologies designed to make the state's electrical grid safer and more efficient and reliable.

Three projects will help remove barriers to modernizing the state's electrical grid. Projects include a device that can detect electrical circuit breakdowns in homes, a control system that can improve the performance of microgrids and materials that can increase the life of lithium-ion batteries.

"Having a smart grid is critical to advancing California's clean energy goals," said Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. "A more dynamic and reliable infrastructure will enable us to take advantage of renewable energy, meet growing demand and keep rates affordable."

Andrew Keen, a researcher with the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, will receive $149,808 to develop an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI), a device to detect electrical breakdowns in circuits and reduce risks of fires. This project will develop a prototype "smart" AFCI plug for household circuits and provide added safety over what is currently required by most electrical codes in the United States.

Tsu-Chin Tsao, a researcher at the University of California (UC), Los Angeles, will receive $150,000 to design a control system that will improve the safety and efficiency of microgrids. A microgrid is a small-scale version of the traditional larger power grid that draws energy from clean sources such as the wind and sun, as well as from conventional energy sources. Microgrids are able to connect to the larger electric grid, but can also work independently. The benefits of microgrids, estimated to be a $40 billion market by 2020, include greater energy reliability and security. The proposed control system will provide a seamless transition between when microgrids are connected to the larger electricity grid and operating independently of it. The proposed control approach has the potential to improve system performance, efficiency and power quality compared to current methods and practices.

Researcher Michael Sailor of UC San Diego will receive $150,000 to study the use of silicone-based materials to increase the battery life and energy storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries. Energy storage technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries, have the potential to support greater integration of clean renewable energy with the grid. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar provide clean, sustainable electricity but only when the sun shines or the wind blows. Energy storage allows utilities and grid operators to capture renewable energy when it is generated and use that energy during times when it is most needed.

Funds for these projects come from the Commission's research and development program. The program supports public interest research and development that helps improve the quality of life in California by bringing environmentally safe, reliable, and affordable energy services and products to the marketplace. Funds will be paid to the grantees once invoices are reviewed and approved.

# # #

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. Created by the Legislature in 1974 and located in Sacramento, six basic responsibilities guide the Energy Commission as it sets state energy policy: forecasting future energy needs; licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger; promoting energy efficiency and conservation by setting the state's appliance and building efficiency standards; supporting public interest energy research that advances energy science and technology through research, development, and demonstration programs; developing renewable energy resources and alternative renewable energy technologies for buildings, industry and transportation; planning for and directing state response to energy emergencies. For more information, visit: or

Sign up for California Energy Commission news releases at