Southern California Edison (SCE) is developing a building electrification plan to present to state regulators later this year as the utility looks to tackle the next big hurdle in climate change, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Caroline Choi said Thursday at an event hosted by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.
California wants to reach 60% renewables by 2030 and has aggressive emissions-reduction targets as well. “We are behind on both clean energy goals as well as on all the electrification that needs to take place,” Choi said. “First on the transportation side, and particularly the building side.”
SCE’s building program would be “similar to the programs that we’ve offered in transportation electrification,” Choi said. Last year the California Public Utilities Commission approved the utility’s $436 million electric vehicle (EV) charging program, which it says is the largest charging program in the country.
Thursday’s Business Council for Sustainable Energy event focused on how the utilities and other industries are approaching the upcoming 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), which runs Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.
“We see really fantastic programs and initiatives being offered globally,” said Choi, adding that addressing climate change will require investment in clean energy technologies as well as community partnerships to roll them out.
In the run up to COP26, nations around the globe have made new climate commitments. Under President Joe Biden, the U.S. has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50%-52% from 2005 levels by 2030. Globally, the International Energy Agency says emissions reductions commitments heading into COP26 will lower building demand 10% relative to the efficiency policies governments currently have in place.
In the United States “there is significant untapped potential for energy efficiency improvements in buildings, though policies that would enable emissions reductions ambitions to be realized have yet to be announced,” IEA said in its World Energy Outlook 2021, released this month.
For SCE, “we do see a need for additional policies, as well as funding,” Choi said. She pointed to how the state has approached transportation electrification, with commitments to accelerate EV adoption and money for charging infrastructure.
SCE is also focused on issues of equity, and Choi said that means considering how electrification programs impact the consumer.
“A third of our customers are on an income-qualified rate. So we’re definitely thinking about the affordability of the product, particularly as more things are electrified, and as we propose programs to advance electrification within our service area,” she said.
Utilities are particularly well suited to tackle climate change, said Pacific Gas & Electric Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer Carla Peterman. Also speaking at the Business Council for Sustainable Energy event, she said utilities have been heartened to see resilience and climate policies included in infrastructure packages being considered on Capitol Hill.
Completing infrastructure projects with local workers is “a good way to spend the dollar,” Peterman said. “One of the things we’re very focused on is making sure that we’re training the next generation of utility workers.”
PG&E has developed a program called PowerPathway, to focus on “future employees who come from communities that may not have typically been represented,” said Peterman.
Similarly, Choi said SCE has launched a line worker scholarship pilot program this year and hopes to make it permanent in the future. The utility’s building electrification aspirations will also hinge on workforce development, she said.