For Immediate Release: May 5, 2021
EPIC Projects Create Thousands of Jobs, Attract Billions in Private Investment
Sacramento – The California Energy Commission’s (CEC) latest annual report on the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program highlights how public-interest research is helping California meet its goal of decarbonizing the electrical system by 2045 and supporting technologies that help address the devastating effects of climate change.
EPIC is the state’s premier clean energy research and development program. Each year, more than $130 million in EPIC funding is invested in projects that advance the environmental sustainability, reliability, and affordability of the electric system. From 2012 through 2020, EPIC supported more than 380 projects with $846 million in funding resulting in 3,500 jobs and $3.5 billion in private investment raised by awardees.
“In a dim year for California, our clean energy research efforts continued to be a bright light for innovators and entrepreneurs seeking to be part of the climate solution,” said CEC Chair David Hochschild. "EPIC-funded innovations are helping meet today’s challenges while bringing together the expertise required to assess future needs and opportunities as the state works toward a carbon-free grid.”
Grid resiliency is a focus for EPIC investments. Generally, resiliency refers to efforts to minimize negative impacts to the grid caused by climate, environmental, and other types of threats. Of particular concern to California are the impacts of extreme weather events and wildfires on the grid. In the past decade, these threats have become more frequent and severe, devastating whole communities, causing loss of life, and triggering billions of dollars in damage.
Since 2012, EPIC has invested more than $151 million to benefit communities, businesses, and public agencies by advancing breakthrough technology solutions and tools to build a safe and resilient energy system. EPIC-funded microgrids, like those at three Fremont fire stations in Alameda County, have proven their worth by keeping essential and emergency services running even during power outages.
EPIC funding has also been invested in demand response and load flexibility technologies such as energy storage.
“Storage is crucial to California’s transition to a carbon-free electrical system,” said Laurie ten Hope, deputy director of CEC’s Energy Research and Development Division. “It helps integrate the ever-increasing amounts of solar and wind electricity going to the grid and reduces climate-warming emissions by replacing electricity from traditional natural gas plants.”
Lithium-ion battery storage is the most prevalent technology in use today, but it has limitations including duration. Research, however, is underway on non-lithium-ion technologies capable of providing up to 20 times the duration of lithium-ion-based counterparts. Last year, the CEC invested $43 million in EPIC funds for non-lithium energy storage demonstration projects.
“There are a number of emerging storage technologies that are worth looking at that could eventually be alternatives to lithium-ion batteries,” said Mike Gravely, CEC research program manager. “We believe they'll be able to provide a better, more affordable, and safer product, but we have to first prove that.”
Although EPIC-funded projects can be found throughout the state, the CEC is committed to ensuring all Californians benefit from the state’s energy transformation. Through 2020, more than 65 percent of EPIC technology demonstration and deployment funds have been invested in projects with demonstration sites in low income and disadvantaged communities. That number increases to 68 percent when projects benefitting California Native American tribes are included.
The EPIC program was renewed by the California Public Utilities Commission last year, ensuring another decade of support for the entrepreneurs and innovators shaping California’s energy future.
About the California Energy Commission
The California Energy Commission is leading the state to a 100 percent clean energy future. It has seven core responsibilities: developing renewable energy, transforming transportation, increasing energy efficiency, investing in energy innovation, advancing state energy policy, certifying thermal power plants, and preparing for energy emergencies.