Defining and setting policy priorities for the “smart grid” are key issues for utilities, independent generators, consumer advocates and environmental representatives in the state. To that end, the California Public Utilities Commission scheduled an April 21 hearing to lay the groundwork for a state smart grid policy. The move comes in light of the fast-paced, competitive bidding for the federal government’s $4.5 billion to support projects to facilitate one- and two-way communication between utilities and their customers across the nation. In advance of the hearing, industry players outlined their positions in recent filings with the commission. Investor-owned utilities and the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies urge that integrating renewable resources into the grid get top billing. CEERT also calls for a consolidated policy framework that is transparent and includes a greater emphasis on energy efficiency. Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric, in a joint statement filed late last month, also seek funding for investing in high technologies on the customer side of the meter, which for them include plug-in hybrids and home area networks. Division of Ratepayer Advocates and representatives of large energy users insist that the regulators first define “smart grid” and then make sure qualifying projects are cost effective. They also want a list of proposed “smart grid” projects developed and maintained. The Western Power Trading Forum calls for opening the door to competition to “offer customers expanded choice.” It wants private utilities to have to compete against independent third parties that develop and market technologies and services to reduce peak load and lower customer utility bills. It also wants the policy to call for collaborative deployment strategies. The California Large Energy Consumer Association also wants a compilation of the various “smart grid” initiatives under development by the CPUC, California Energy Commission, the grid operator, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The association wants state regulators to shine light on FERC’s smart grid cost recovery proposals for utilities, noting that most ratepayer representatives do not have the resources to participate in the federal commission’s proceedings.