Breaking Down Barriers to Advance Clean Vehicles and Clean Energy

Breaking Down Barriers to Advance Clean Vehicles and Clean Energy

Posted on

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 9:58am

An Interview with CPUC Commissioner Carla Peterman

After serving on the California Energy Commission, Carla Peterman was appointed to the California Public Utilities Commission in 2012. She is a champion of electric vehicles, energy efficiency, energy storage and other areas in which California has led the rest of the nation. We take a look at her accomplishments and advice for the next generation of clean energy advocates.

Having served on the Commission since 2012, what accomplishments are you most proud of?

I am generally proud that we have provided safe, reliable utility services. Also, we have brought forth different energy business models and leadership on advancing emerging clean technologies. Specifically, I’m most proud of two accomplishments.

1) In 2013, I authored the nation’s first energy storage targets for investor-owned utilities: 1,325 megawatts by 2020, with installations required no later than the end of 2024. The guiding principles of the targets were grid optimization, renewable energy integration and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions, per California’s goals. Oregon has since adopted a similar framework.

2) We have the largest electric vehicle charging pilots by electric utilities in the nation. These pilots will result in thousands of new charging stations throughout the state, including in disadvantaged communities. This should accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles by providing market certainty about infrastructure availability. Utility proposals are now considered on a case-by-case basis, preserving market competition and technology innovation. We are continuing to influence legislation in this direction which is necessary to reduce GHGs.

As a Commissioner, how do you balance competing priorities?

By providing a good, transparent process. There are many opportunities for stakeholders to provide their insight. And when they are provided in written form, everyone gets the same amount of attention. I pride myself and my staff on being open to all different perspectives. In the end, I may not do what you want, but I try to value different perspectives and address all major concerns. The key thing is to listen to people and not get closed in with a small circle of influence.

When it comes to working on emerging technology, it is important not only to set targets, but also off-ramps in case the economics don’t come to fruition. We set regular policy check-ins to ensure we’re on track based on the goals that were set when policy was adopted. If the policy is not working, we adjust. That’s good policymaking.

Describe a challenging moment you experienced while in public office.

One of the most challenging moments while at the CPUC was when I was working on energy storage. We tried to model storage procurement on renewable procurement which sometimes did not make sense in practice. For example, we proposed contracts be standardized, like the solar industry, because we thought it would streamline procurement. However, stakeholders thought that this was premature for this market. We had to take a step back and really analyze storage proposals on a one-on-one basis. Sometimes we need to go slower so we can learn.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years?

In five years I would like to see the emerging initiatives I’m working on—such as electrified transportation, and energy storage—be relatively established in the utility market and become national models. California has aggressive goals for renewable energy and GHG reduction goals by 2030. I’m optimistic but the utilities can’t do it alone. Reaching these goals will require broad customer and political acceptance. Time and time again when Californians sets environmental goals, we surpass them. Take the 10% renewable energy goals. Many thought it was impossible, but we met that goal ahead of schedule—same with the 33% renewable goal by 2020.

Do you have advice for young female professionals of color?

A lot of what’s happening in energy and electric transportation policy is new to everyone—new technology, new business models. Don’t be afraid to jump in, learn and contribute. It’s a good time to be in this sector. The world is going to change based on our collective decisions over the next five years. Although the utility space is traditionally a male industry, we’re seeing an increase of women and minorities over the last decade. I think diversity brings diversity of perspective and insight. Be optimistic about the contribution that you can make. Right now the CPUC board is majority women, and majority women of color. We make decisions on behalf of all California, so we need the regulatory body to look like the people. It’s important for those from different backgrounds to rise to positions of leadership.

An Interview with CPUC Commissioner Carla Peterman

After serving on the California Energy Commission, Carla Peterman was appointed to the California Public Utilities Commission in 2012. She is a champion of electric vehicles, energy efficiency, energy storage and other areas in which California has led the rest of the nation. We take a look at her accomplishments and advice for the next generation of clean energy advocates.