Targeted Building Electrification and Gas System Decommissioning Pilot Project
Testing the hypothesis: targeted electrification paired with tactical gas decommissioning can provide net gas system savings while promoting equity and meeting the needs of local communities.
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. Also refer to Gridworks’ 2019 report, Gas Resource and Infrastructure Planning for California, for more information on this topic.
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.
- Develop a replicable framework to identify electrification opportunities that support the objective of gas system cost savings through tactical decommissioning.
- 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.
- Using that analytical framework, identify up to 3 candidate pilot sites within Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) and Ava Community Energy’s 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.
- 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)
Project Partners: Funding for the “Strategic Pathways and Analytics for Tactical Decommissioning of Portions of Natural Gas Infrastructure” project is provided by the California Energy Commission (CEC). This project is administered by Energy + Environmental Economics (E3) with support from Ava Community Energy and Gridworks. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is the utility partner providing gas system data and gas engineering expertise for this research.
- Ari Eisenstadt (California Environmental Justice Alliance, CEJA)
- Billi Romain (City of Berkeley)
- Kiki Velez (Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC)
- Larry Waters (Electrify My Home)
- Michael Colvin (Environmental Defense Fund, EDF)
- Michael Wara (Stanford University)
- Wade Stano (Marin Clean Energy, MCE)