Energy Research Funds Stretched In California

The California Energy Commission awarded nearly $3.5 million to eight research projects in the state, with the lion’s share of the money – about $1 million apiece – going to two projects: one at UCLA to create a tool for evaluating and analyzing regional energy use and its environmental and socioeconomic impacts, and another by Electric Power Group of Pasadena for hardware upgrades that could help improve the reliability of the bulk transmission power grid in the West.

With the state facing a budget crisis, the commission was careful to point out that this money, which comes from ratepayers, is being leveraged with “federal and private funds to deliver $87 million – nearly a 25-to-1 return – to California universities and businesses.”

California Energy Commission research grants

image via Zine Press

That’s especially true with the Electric Power Group grant for its work on the Western Interconnection Synchrophasor Program. As the commission explains it, “a synchrophasor is a piece of hardware that provides real-time information about the performance of electrical transmission systems.” Electric Power Group is charged with integrating the synchrophasor technology at the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). Meanwhile, similar work on other parts of the Western grid is being backed by Recovery Act funding to the tune of $54 million.

Among the other six awards, the biggest went to researchers at Stanford who will get $500,000 to conduct field studies on the effectiveness of energy awareness and motivational strategies in reducing residential energy use. That money is being combined with a $5 million Recovery Act award as well as $790,971 from Stanford itself.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.