Research Policy and Legislation

Energy Commission R&D Programs

The Energy Commission administers several R&D programs that drive innovation and advance science and technology in the fields of energy efficiency, renewable energy and advanced clean generation, energy-related environmental protection, energy transmission and distribution, and transportation. The new Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program invests in improvements to the state's electricity systems. The Natural Gas Research, Development and Demonstration program invests in improvements to California's natural gas systems. The previous funding source, the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Electric program no longer funds R&D; however, existing projects will continue through the end of 2015.

EPIC: California's Investment in the 21st Century Electric Grid

EPIC is a new R&D program that replaces the ended Public Goods Charge's R&D program funding. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) created EPIC, selected the Energy Commission as one of the four administrators of EPIC funds, and approved the first triennial investment plans for EPIC expenditures on November 14, 2013. The three other administrators are Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). EPIC will fund innovative technologies, tools and approaches that provide benefits to electric ratepayers in PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E service territories through greater reliability, lower costs, increased safety, and enhanced environmental sustainability. Providing benefits to these ratepayers is the primary goal because EPIC funds come from them.

EPIC is the most comprehensive statewide approach to creating new energy solutions, fostering regional innovation and bringing ideas to the marketplace. EPIC consolidates the R&D initiatives of the three largest investor-owned utility service areas into an aggregate program, which ensures no duplication in spending and also implements compliance with state energy policies. Under this program, Energy Commission electricity R&D will move energy technologies and products from the lab to life, make our electricity system safer and more reliable, lower costs and give ratepayers choices and control. Find more information about the creation of EPIC. Read our first Triennial Investment Plan

Public Interest Energy Research (PIER)

The PIER program was created in 1996 when the California Legislature enacted Assembly Bill 1890 (Brulte, Chapter 854, Statues of 1996). This law shifted the administration of public interest energy research and demonstration from the state's investor owned utilities to state government. This legislation directed the California Energy Commission to "develop, and help bring to market, energy technologies that provide increased environmental benefits, greater system reliability, and lower system costs." (Source: Public Resources Code Section 25620.1). The PIER program received roughly $62.5 million annually in surcharges on electricity rates and $24 million per year in surcharges on natural gas rates.

Through the PIER program, the Commission managed the electricity and natural gas research programs and invested more than $779 million in innovative energy technologies leveraged its investment to attract more than $1.3 billion in match funding. Funded projects provided thousands of direct and indirect jobs to Californians, bolstered California's status as a leader in energy innovation, and advanced the state toward a cleaner energy future.

In 2011, the Legislature did not reauthorize the electricity research portion of the PIER program and the Public Goods Charge, the mechanism under Public Utilities Code Section 399.8 that funded it. As a result, the PIER Electric program encumbered the final electricity funds in 2013, and the Energy Commission continues to manage the remaining active projects through the end of 2015. An archive of Public Interest Energy Research Annual Reports documenting various projects from 1998-2014 is available here.