Targeted Gas Decommissioning Project Kick-off

November 15, 2021

d.shields

General

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Gridworks is delighted to announce its participation in the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) upcoming Targeted Gas Decommissioning Project. We are also pleased to share the incredible team assembled to serve as the project’s Advisory Committee. The CEC will host its first public workshop for this project on November 17 (details here). 

Problem Statement 

Meeting California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals, a statewide priority and absolute necessity to combat climate change, inevitably means a substantial decline in gas throughput in the state. This poses a challenge for the current operation and cost recovery mechanisms of the state’s gas distribution system. As discussed in the Gridworks paper California’s Gas System in Transition, if many gas customers depart the system and gas infrastructure spending does not also decline, then remaining gas customers could face significant increases in their gas bills to pay for ongoing operation and maintenance of underutilized assets. Low-income and disadvantaged communities are most vulnerable to the impacts of higher energy bills and face many barriers to switching away from natural gas use in buildings.  

Project Overview  

Tactical decommissioning of portions of the state’s gas infrastructure, as a means of reducing the cost of operating and maintaining the gas grid, is one potential solution to the problem. However, it has never been tested at scale. Likewise, the regulatory framework, and data necessary to inform cost savings through tactical pruning of the gas system have not been developed. Finally, the conditions necessary for community participation in, and support for, gas decommissioning are not well understood. These knowledge gaps must be closed if gas utilities, policymakers, and regulators are to develop and implement a sustainable and equitable transition away from the use of the gas distribution system.  

This project, sponsored by the CEC via an EPIC grant, is divided into four primary phases, with the collective objective of advancing progress on California’s gas transition in light of the state’s decarbonization objectives. Note that these phases might not all be sequential as some concurrent work may occur.  

  1. Develop a replicable framework to identify electrification opportunities that support the objective of gas system cost savings through tactical decommissioning.  
  2. Local communities will be asked to share their perspectives and priorities related to building electrification and gas decommissioning. This will lead to the production of a community needs assessment.  
  3. Using that analytical framework, identify up to 3 candidate pilot sites within Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) and East Bay Community Energy’s (EBCE) shared service territory, including at least one within a disadvantaged community. Produce deployment plans for the recommended pilots, including a proposal for community stakeholder engagement.
  4. Conduct targeted education and outreach to stakeholders and policymakers within and beyond California to motivate action, including lessons learned at key milestones and final work products.

In addition to completing each of these four primary objectives, this project also intends to:  

  • Identify new gas and electric data sources and data needs 
  • Ensure that community needs are highlighted throughout the process, including environmental justice and equity concerns  
  • Actively work to identify barriers to electrification in pilot communities and to address those barriers 
  • Think broadly about the organizations and funding needed to enable the pilots, even if indirectly (e.g., suitable broadband access to enable smart appliances) 

Advisory Committee

Gridworks is pleased to announce the advisory committee members for its upcoming Targeted Gas Decommissioning Project. Gridworks is greatly looking forward to working with this group of outstanding thought leaders. Detailed bios for our advisory committee members are below. In alphabetical order, our advisory committee members are:

  • Merrian Borgeson (Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC)
  • Michael Colvin (Environmental Defense Fund, EDF)
  • Billi Romain (City of Berkeley)
  • Mad Stano (Greenlining)
  • Larry Waters (Electrify My Home)

Merrian Borgeson (NRDC)

Merrian Borgeson champions stronger climate policies by providing analysis and strategic guidance to help us shift to efficient, renewable energy. She works closely with policymakers and stakeholders at the state, regional and national levels. Prior to joining NRDC, she worked as a team leader at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She also served as the first director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia and as the managing director (and later the board chair) of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. Borgeson is currently a trustee for the Goggio Family Foundation and sits on the advisory boards of the Schumacher Center for New Economics. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, a master’s from the University of California, Berkeley, Energy and Resources Group; and an MBA from Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. She is based in San Francisco.

Michael Colvin (EDF)

Michael Colvin is the Director of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, California Energy Program at Environmental Defense Fund. Based out of EDF’s San Francisco office, Michael focuses on building decarbonization, gas utility business models, wholesale electricity markets and transportation electrification matters. Across each of these issues, Michael’s focuses on minimizing investment risk and aligning utility incentives with affordable, clean and safe energy services. Prior to joining EDF, Michael spent 10 years at the California Public Utilities Commission working on various energy and utility safety matters. Michael was energy advisor to former Commissioners Mark J. Ferron and Catherine J.K. Sandoval. Michael holds a Masters in Public Policy and a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Economics, both from the University of California, Berkeley. 

Billi Romain (City of Berkeley)

Billi Romain manages the Office of Energy and Sustainable Development at the City of Berkeley. Her work focuses on engaging diverse communities to advance equitable building and transportation decarbonization. Billi has worked for a number of public agencies developing and implementing programs to improve the lives of people and the natural environment, including the City of Santa Monica, San Francisco and UC Berkeley. She has a Masters Degree in Environmental Policy Planning from UCLA and is interested in connecting urban climate action efforts in support of rural and indigenous-led environmental justice movements.  In her spare time she enjoys walking her dogs and swimming in the San Francisco Bay.

Mad Stano (Greenlining)

Mad Stano is Senior Legal Counsel of Climate Equity at the Greenlining Institute and is our regulatory and legislative lead for issues related to long-term resource planning, safety, affordability, and reliability. Mad started their legal career as an attorney with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, where they worked with residents impacted by oil and gas pollution in the San Joaquin Valley through litigation, administrative advocacy, state and local policy work, organizing and storytelling. Mad previously worked as a program director at the California Environmental Justice Alliance supporting their climate justice, energy equity and land use state policy, regulatory advocacy and program administration work. Their litigation, legislation and work experience include anti-discrimination, land use, climate change, extreme energy extraction, decarbonization and a community-led just transition away from fossil fuels. Mad is also a lecturer on environmental justice at Berkeley Law. 

Larry Waters (Electrify My Home)

Larry is a 40-year veteran of the HVAC industry. He spent the first ten years of his career in Industrial and Commercial systems including Chiller’s boilers large package equipment built up systems etc.  He focused on residential Heating and Air as a service technician and sales professional and has sold more than 20 million dollars of HVAC product. Since 2011 he has concentrated on high performance methodologies as a BPI certified building analyst. In 2014 he shifted his focus to high-efficiency heat pump installation to replace gas. Larry has overseen the design, implementation, and installation of over 400 electrification projects in the greater Bay area of California. 

Larry’s extensive experience has made him a noted Authority within the energy programs of the State of California. Larry started his all-electric gas conversion company Electrify My Home in 2019. Larry has been an advisory board member of the building decarbonization coalition and is still active as a Leading Light representative. Due to Larry’s experience, he has been called on by many to consult And advise in electrification in the residential built environment.

Larry and his company Electrify my home have been contracted to provide training to other contractors in an effort to speed up the adoption of electrification in California. 

Post by Deborah Shields