Laurie is Deputy Director of the Energy Research & Development Division at the California Energy Commission. She leads the State’s public interest research and development to stimulate clean energy technology development and deployment. Program investments are approximately $200 million annually and are a catalyst for innovation and intend to transform California to a renewable, efficient, low-carbon energy future.
She focused on the extraordinary efforts that the State of California is making to stimulate reductions in carbon.
She began by talking about the potential harm that climate change may inflict on California. Two-thirds of California’s beaches may erode by 2100. Wildfire burned areas could increase by 77 percent. Extreme weather (heavy rains and droughts) are expected.
These risks are expected in the Northwest, as well. If average temperatures rise by 1.5 degrees Centigrade, we can expect 67 percent more days with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit with impacts on human health and salmon. Snowpack could diminish by 38 percent impacting water availability, recreation and irrigation capacity. Summer stream flows could reduce by 32 percent, which might stress salmon populations, diminish hydro power capacity, and increase water disputes.
These challenges, she suggested, call for aggressive decarbonization efforts focused on energy efficiency, electrification of buildings, and transportation, development of low-carbon fuels, and decreasing non-combustion GHGs.
The California Energy Commission hopes to foster innovation across the energy sector. Its mission is to strategically invest funds to catalyze change and accelerate achievement of policy goals. It funds programs:
- Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC), $133 million annually
- Natural Gas Research, Development and Demonstration Program, $24 million annually
- Food Production Investment Program, $124 million biennially
- Low Carbon Fuels R&D Program, $18 million, one-time general fund expenditure authority
These investments are meant to develop a strategic and statewide innovation system in energy that supports startup companies, as well as de-risks deployment of emerging technologies by earlier adopters. She talked about leveraging these efforts with efforts such as federal entrepreneurial investments and the CalTestBed project that leverages test facilities at California research universities. Examples include efforts in improving density and performance of battery technologies, and innovations in grid interactive buildings.