In place of macro investments, the new thrust of the state\u2019s Electric Program Investment Charge is facilitating funding the grid\u2019s \u201clittle helpers.\u201d For many of the non-utility stakeholders, the focus is new investments to promote localized waste-to-energy facilities. In Oct. 2 filings and discussions late last week, utilities, stakeholders, and the California Energy Commission made public their intent to use funds intended for public goods for small investments in increments to help the grid perform better and increase its efficiency. The investment charge program replaces the public goods charge that was legislatively authorized. That addendum on ratepayers\u2019 bills expired at the end of 2011. The replacement investment charge is a program that was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission last May at the direction of the governor. It\u2019s a $162 million\/year program. Of that, $55 million is to be spent on research, $75 million on demonstration, $15 million on marketing, and $17 million on administration. Utilities control $30 million and the rest is administered by the California Energy Commission. Spending is supposed to advance the state\u2019s \u201cloading order,\u201d as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote economic development. As revealed over the last week, utilities plan to spend their share on small research and development projects for gadgets to improve the grid\u2019s performance. Details of utility filings include: -Pacific Gas & Electric wants to \u201coptimize\u201d existing assets like the grid, and \u201cleverage\u201d digital meters. It also notes it wants to enable customers to upload photos--such as one of a downed tree on a power line--on the Internet to enable customer service in outages. -San Diego Gas & Electric notes the funds are too tiny to enable real capital investments for big projects so it is looking at power quality clean-up devices, customer demand management, and coordination. -Southern California Edison focuses on substation automation, and technology standardization. The bulk of stakeholders veered towards using the new CEC-administered funds for localized bioenergy projects--launching sewer and landfill waste to utility scale electricity developments. Of the total new CEC funds, 20 percent is earmarked for bioenergy projects. For instance, the ubiquitous hauler, Waste Management, proposed Oct. 3 that the state use funds for \u201cpre-commercial biomass conversion technologies\u201d to assist anaerobic technology to increase biomethane, as well as centralizing collection. Bay Area wastewater agencies urged funds go to transforming their sewer plants into facilities that not only help purify water, but turn the dregs into an energy source for on-site use and grid payback. The first phase of spending approval by the CPUC--which must approve plans for both the utility and the CEC\u2019s funds--is set for May 2013.