Rural County Representatives of California RCRCOn October 15, RCRC provided formal comments to the California Energy Commission (CEC) on the future allocation of Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) investments. The EPIC Program annually allocates approximately $130 million in ratepayer funds to a wide variety of scientific and technological research to help the state meet its energy and climate goals.

In late 2020, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) renewed the EPIC surcharge for an additional ten years and authorized utilities to collect $148 million annually from ratepayers for those purposes. The CEC and CPUC held an en banc meeting on October 8th to discuss potential investment categories for the next phase of the EPIC Program. The proposed EPIC Phase 4 Investment Plan Summary outlines a wide variety of projects to increase the use of renewable energy, improve the resiliency and reliability of the electrical grid, facilitate in-state lithium production, promote in-state lithium-ion battery recycling, and reduce wildfire risk.

RCRC testified at the October 8th meeting and urged the CEC and CPUC to leverage the EPIC program to improve energy reliability, reduce wildfire risk, increase in-state lithium production, and further lithium-ion battery recycling. RCRC’s comments to the CEC expand upon those oral comments and drive home the theme that California MUST improve energy reliability as a precursor to other technological advancements.

In particular, RCRC strongly promoted investing in biomass energy production as a way to meet the state’s wildfire risk reduction and forest health goals, help local governments meet their organic waste procurement mandates, and provide an alternative to the open burning of agricultural waste in the Central Valley.

RCRC also promoted using EPIC funds to develop offshore wind energy and to advance geothermal energy and lithium production.

RCRC noted that EPIC’s efforts to improve transportation electrification and charging should only come after the state improves energy reliability and expands access to charging infrastructure, including through the strategic deployment of energy-storage systems that promote local reliability.

Finally, RCRC cautioned that future development of bidirectional vehicle charging/discharging systems MUST incorporate safeguards so that residents will always be left with sufficient power in their vehicles to safely evacuate if the need arises.

Please contact RCRC Legislative Advocate, John Kennedy, with any questions.