CPUC Advances Building Decarbonization and Utility Safety

By Published On: November 4, 2021

The California Public Utilities Commission approved measures to help builders and owners increase the electrification of their homes or other buildings, in part by creating a single application for incentives for both electric heat pumps and water heaters that replace gas-fired ones.  There are $440 million in subsidies.

The CPUC also told the state’s three investor-owned utilities to adjust rates for customers who install electric heat pumps and water heaters so their electric bills do not rise from the increased electricity use.

“We don’t want to penalize customers with higher bills for adopting all-electric appliances,” Commissioner Cliff Rechtschaffen said at the agency’s Thursday meeting.

In addition, the CPUC launched its new $50 million, 10-year subsidy program for those rebuilding all-electric homes after losing homes to fire. Low-income homeowners are slated to receive a 50% higher rebuilding subsidy.

Commissioner Darcie Houck said the new incentives and building decarbonization work will help California reduce methane emissions in line with President Joe Biden’s commitment to slash methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. Biden announced the plan earlier this week at the global climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, with 78 nations pledging to do the same.

Also at the Nov. 4 CPUC meeting, regulators approved additional safety risk metrics for the IOUs, particularly Pacific Gas & Electric, that aim to add transparency to how the companies assess and decide how to reduce dangers. The metrics aimed at PG&E are part of the Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement the CPUC required as part of the utility’s plan to exit bankruptcy last May.

The new metrics replace subjective risk analysis with quantitative analysis of safety measures, Rechtschaffen said.

The commission approval included 32 new safety and operational metrics covering the risk of wildfires ignited by electrical lines and equipment, electric reliability, and natural gas safety for PG&E. The utility will have to report on how quickly it responds when its equipment sparks fires and whether it has reduced its sudden outages. The CPUC also will continue monitoring PG&E’s wildfire investigations and safety work on its natural gas system.

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