Transcript: The Distributed Energy Resources Revolution (CA Climate Policy Summit 2024)

Please note that the transcript provided below is AI-generated and intended for reference. It may contain missing words, misspellings, or other small errors. To request a correction or clarification, please contact

Kurt Johnson (00:01:39):
Okay folks, we’re going to get started with the first session of the DER breakout track on grid for the future.

Kurt Johnson (00:01:48):
So if you’re not here for the grid for the future track, you can move to the other breakout rooms. So I’m Kurt Johnson with the Climate Center. I manage our community energy resilience project. Is this working right, Renee? We’re good. Yeah,

So I think we teed up some of the conversations this morning actually, particularly in that last panel about the grid for the future. Related to that, just another shout out, my bi-directional EV is parked outside. It’s got a fridge running off of it. Also, there is a bidirectional EV charger sitting there, which you can check out. So I’d encourage you to go check that out at the breaks. Before we start the first panel, I want to start by thanking our sponsors first. Our Emerald sponsor, Sunrun is the sponsor of the entire DER breakout track in the afternoon, and then we have different thank you Sunrun. And is Walker still walking around here somewhere? No, I think he said he was going to get on a plane and fly to Europe. So thank you to Sunrun. And then I want sort of a special thanks to Sunnova, which is a sponsor of this particular session.

Aaron here is going to speak in a second about Sunnova’s work, and then the second session this afternoon is sponsored by MCE and I don’t know if Alexandra. Thank you. Alexandra from MCE. And then our final track this afternoon at four o’clock in BGI by San Jose, clean Energy. Anyone from San Jose? Clean Energy, San Jose Clean Energy. Okay, thank you for your support for the Climate Policy Summit and we have some additional sponsors here. I want to give a shout out to listed here. Carbon Capture Newbie Decibel Decibel has actually the bi-directional charger outside. You can check out uplight, Silicon Valley Clean Energy Citizens Climate Lobby. Also thanks to the Energy Coalition, Mike Grid Resources Coalition, our moderator, Allie Diet Tree. I’ll introduce in a second a couple of sponsors I missed. Allie, can you go back? Okay. Also Powerflex OM Connect, Cisco Debris, clean Power Lines and Peninsula Clean Energy.

So these things wouldn’t be possible without all of you. So thanks to our sponsors and without further ado, I’m going to turn it over to the moderator of our first session, Allie DeRio from the Microgrid Resources Coalition. And I should also say that we’re not doing bios per se. All the bios of all the speakers are up on our website and they’re available through the hova app. So just a short note about Allie, we worked together for four or something years since I’ve been with the Climate Center, really ardent passionate leader on microgrids and clean energy. So I’m very pleased to introduce Allie as a moderator of the first session.

Allie Detrio (00:04:58):
Thanks Kurt. Thanks everybody for being here. As he said, my name’s Allie DeRio. I’m the chief strategist for Reimagined Power and the senior advisor for the Microgrid Resources Coalition. I’m joined here by three as seemed panelists that are helping to lead the DER revolution. We have a really great discussion that we’re going to talk about today regarding decentralized clean energy solutions and community centric resilience opportunities. So just before we kick off and give everybody a chance to introduce themselves and talk about their role in the DER revolution, I just wanted to highlight and emphasize the role that distributed energy resources can play in our clean energy future being clean, affordable, reliable, equitable, and safe. And one of the big things that are really continue to be themes when it comes to microgrids and distributed energy resources that they achieve many of California’s core policy objectives.

And so we’re going to dive into some of the details on that today. But decarbonization, resilience, reliability, innovation, community empowerment, equity, affordability, all of these things are really important and DER really can solve all of our problems if only we have the political will and the policy opportunities to achieve those objectives. So here we have our panel that I’m going to talk with today about this opportunity. And so I’m going to start with Crystal and let’s you give a moment to introduce yourself and talk about your role in the DER revolution and the opportunities you see ahead of us with your role in the organization.

Crystal Huang (00:06:25):
Thank you. Who’s ready to get into the future? So hi everyone. My name is Crystal Huang. I’m with People Power Solar Cooperative. We exist to enable everyone to own and shape our energy future. And what does that really mean? I think I really wanted to just first ground ourself by thinking about if you want to solve a problem, you have to understand the problem first. And I want to bring a favorite quote of late Al wine rubs who loves quoting Einstein, who says that if you want to solve a problem, you cannot use the same mentality where it created the problem. You have to use a different mentality to solve the problem. And so first I want to just briefly mention, you can see on the screen here and there, there’s a pyramid that’s in front of us that is the system in society we live in Today.

We’re talking about extraction, exploitation and control. We live on the ground, we living our best lives or as best as we can, but at the same time we have fossil fuel built in our backyard. We have constant manipulation and control of how our energy resource is generated, controlled, governed, and consumed. So how do we actually make decisions to actually create a future that is for the people, by the people so that we’re not just a target for more extraction. So I’m just talking about problem right now, stepping into what is exciting about the future and the revolution is the opportunity for us to step into that future so we can all shape it together. What does governing looks like? What is all of us coming together beyond just as consumer say no to being treated as just a consumer, but really understanding us as participant and shaper of the future? And that’s what we do at People Power Solar Cooperative. Despite not having a community solar law that works in the state of California, we’re able to build the first ever rooftop solar that is owned by the community through a cooperative ownership. So that is what we do just to create possibility and pathways for folks to come together so that we can break away from this pyramid. And I’m so excited to be here with amazing panelists here. So I just pass it over.

Allie Detrio (00:08:28):
Yeah, I think there’s only one. Yeah. Next. Thank you, Crystal. That’s really exciting. Thanks for teeing things up for us. Next we’ll talk with Cisco Devrees. What excites you most about the DER revolution that’s underway and what is your role in it?

Cisco DeVries (00:08:41):
Hi, so just keep going this way. Hi everybody. I’m Cisco Dries. I am the last CEO of M connect and I’ll explain in just one second. So look, I’m really excited to be here and I’m excited to talk about it because this is a thing that we’ve been talking about and thinking about for a long time that’s about to happen. For the last 20 plus years I’ve been in energy, clean energy space. I actually started as an appointee for President Bill Clinton in the US Department of Energy when one of my first tasks was to roll out national new national refrigerator standards. I was 22 or three years old and I thought that perhaps I had gone there to die, but instead, actually I think it began this whole journey that leads to right now, which is that the stuff in your home matters. You can control the energy you use, you control how much you use it, and we can solve these enormous other problems.

So for the last four and a half years I’ve been the CEO of OM connect. Today we have hundreds of thousands of customers who reduce their energy use at key times, much of which is coming through automated reductions, refrigerator cycling thermostats, adjusting lights, turning off, all of those kinds of things. And we pay those customers, we pay those people for the reductions in their energy use even though they usually don’t even notice it’s happening. And we do that because sometimes power is really expensive and really dirty and sometimes the grid is really congested and needs the help. So we’ve engaged people about a third of our customers are low and moderate income, helping them earn money, save on their bill, earn money by reducing, and then also helping us save the grid and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and get us on this transition to clean energy overall.

What’s exciting about now is that every home has the ability now to be a key control virtual power plant driver here that your homes can quietly reduce and increase the amount of energy they’re using that in coordination with the grid. We are, this is why I’m the last CEO of OM connect. We have announced and we’ll shortly be launching a merger where OM connect is merging with the part of Google that does haul home energy services and energy relationships with utilities and programs around the country, the Google Nest and nester new infrastructure. So that partnership means that we have over a gigawatt of controllable load on right now in California homes alone, that we can use that to flex quietly in the background every single day that it is needed to help the grid be more reliable and to keep power plants that use fossil fuels from turning on.

That is something we can do today. And it’s not just thermostats, it is a whole range of things that now come embedded in it, partly because of California law, like from Nancy Skinner’s SB 49. We’ll talk a little later, incredible foresight to say, look, each thing that’s going into these homes should give the individual in that home the ability to control them, the ability to use that as a tool in a virtual power plant and get paid for it. So the big exciting thing here is we have all these tools available. The challenge is the affordability gap is going to kill us if we can’t get control of energy bills and give people those controls. So I’m really excited to see how we bring these two together because those two together helping control the energy use in homes, give people that agency can reduce the bill and can speed the transition to clean energy. But if we don’t do this right over the next few years, we’re in big trouble.

Erin Weber Kiel (00:12:35):
Good afternoon everybody. Aaron Weber Keel here with Sunnova I direct policy and government affairs for Sunova in the state of California. I’m excited to be here today to talk with you all about DERs. My favorite topic and in particular, rooftop solar and storage. Solar and batteries really are the two focus pieces of our business and I want to focus on the role that rooftop solar and storage play in affordability, resiliency, and also equity. So we have over 150,000 customers in California. That’s a lot of customers. We talk to a lot of folks. The first thing they tell us is they’re excited about solar to lower their energy bills and 50% of our customers are low to moderate income. I think a lot of times we hear yes, cheers to that, right?

And growing. That’s right. We see this trend not only in California but also nationally. So we continue to be really excited and passionate about the role that solar plays in helping everyday working families lower their bills. As Cisco said, I mean these energy bills as you all have seen, keep rising and rising and there’s a proposal on the table to increase them even more with an income graduated fixed charge. Of course, the other piece is resiliency. So if we can continue to equip families with rooftop solar, but also storage, this really helps shore up our grid. So for example, in 2022, you guys all might remember that tumultuous summer we were able to avoid a blackout by deploying 60,000 customer sighted batteries. That’s huge. So the more that we can empower everyday working families to put that clean solar on their roof and pair it with batteries, we’re really reducing the strain on the grid as a whole.

Why does that matter? The more we can strengthen the grid and avoid having to build out expensive transmission which ends up getting passed to you all in the form of rates, the more diverse our portfolio is and the more sustainable it is. And now the last piece I’ll talk about is the role that we play in equity. Why is rooftop solar and storage an equity issue? Well, like I mentioned at the start, most of our folks are just normal working families, maybe low to moderate income, maybe they’re renters, but we know that when there’s blackouts, those power, safety shutoffs that continue to happen, those disproportionately impact the most vulnerable. We also know that we’re not moving away from fossil fuels fast enough in accordance with SB 100, and we know that if we don’t speed up our transition and keep on pace to meet those goals, the folks who are hurt the most by fossil fuels are those who can’t share in this energy transition. So that’s a little bit about why we’re excited about the DER revolution and future in California.

Allie Detrio (00:16:00):
Great. Thanks so much all of you guys. There’s so many exciting things going on underway. All of our panelists have a lot of really great things that they’re working on and I’d say a lot of progress is being made. So I want to dive in a little bit more to some of these stories that you guys have mentioned and talk about some of the barriers and challenges that you’re seeing in your work. And maybe I’ll start with Cisco to kind of go back to what you were talking about, about the network of partnerships. What are some of the barriers and details that you’re seeing in terms of the challenges and how might we overcome those?

Cisco DeVries (00:16:31):
So how many of you have an iPhone or a smartphone, right? Everybody have an app on it that controls something in your house? Most of you have 20 different apps that control things in your house. So this is a confusing mess. So what happens now is that the energy that you use in your home is actually fairly navigable. You can adjust it up and down almost at will today with the technology we have, except that the connection between all of those things doesn’t exist and the energy data ultimately that is driving all of those costs and that is underlying all of this is hard to access sometimes impossible. So what we’re trying to do here and what the key story that I sort of wanted to focus on is how do you get your home to work for you? Because we don’t actually need a new technology.

We don’t actually need to deploy anything that doesn’t exist and we don’t actually need to spend any money. So when we look at these soaring electricity costs and the cost for all the other changes we need to make to adapt to and prevent the worst components of climate change, this isn’t one of them. We actually have the power now to have your home adjust for you. We just don’t have the tools and the ability to bring all of those pieces together in one place. So that’s what OM connect and the new company that we’re becoming new home is out to do. And so what this slide talks about, what the partnership ecosystem talks about is that we can bring all of these pieces together, the power generation from your CCA, the data coming off your utility smart meter, your refrigerator, I have an LG refrigerator with this app.

Do any you have any use cases for that that’s like I could change the temperature of my freezer right now. It’s not that much fun. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t really do a whole lot for me. The best thing it does is if my kids leave the door to the fridge open, it will eventually alert me and I can then text them to close it again. That is the use case I have for my smart app. But imagine which is already capable, you just flip the switch and it says we’re going to adjust the temperature a few degrees all the time to adjust to the carbon intensity of the grid and to pay you. When the grid is really expensive and dirty, you don’t even need to worry about it. Do you care if your temperature is 32 or 33 or 35 or whatever the right degrees is?

You don’t. So that’s what we can do now, but your refrigerator by itself does not matter. What matters is the tools in your home, all of them. So today in partnership now with Google, we adjust the temperature on your thermostat by one to one and a half degrees. We do that for millions of customers. We do it every day and we do it not because anybody pays us or we pay anybody, but simply because we can adjust carbon intensity of the use of your power. Now imagine harnessing all of that along with all the other components in your home, especially as we electrify giving you the ability to reduce your energy bill and then your home’s ability to rapidly respond to anything the grid might need and pay you for it. We can do that today if we get the regulatory and other things in place.

This is not science fiction, it is literally available today. We do it today, we’ve proven it out. So what I’m excited about is putting all these pieces together and as we go through, what we also have to confront is that we’re just using an old a hundred year old paradigm for running a grid, which is breaking. And if we don’t get out ahead of that, we won’t be able to use the tools that already exist for us to get those bills down and for us to get the transition to clean energy and the grid to remain stable.

Allie Detrio (00:20:23):
Those are really good points. I think one of the big systemic barriers is the regulatory model and we’ve seen that play out in a number of different venues as Cisco pointed out with OM connect and seeing that lack of pathway available. Aaron, do you want to talk a little bit more about your experience with Sunova and some of the barriers that you guys have faced in trying to get some of your innovations off the ground here in California and elsewhere? Yes,

Erin Weber Kiel (00:20:47):
I think I can be honest with this group, but look, the biggest barrier that we face is regulatory capture. We see over and over again the PUC rubber stamping everything that the utilities want and it’s really impeding our progress. Why is that? In the dynamic of rooftop solar and storage in particular, I think the investor owned monopoly utilities certainly see rooftop solar as a threat to their business model. So they have a guaranteed rate of return when they build more poles and wires, and if you have more and more customers who are generating their own local clean power that eats into their profit margins. So I think where we get concerned is certainly when we talk to customers, affordability is a huge issue. We see utilities rate basing transmission build out, and that makes bills harder and harder for folks to attain. So I’ll just give you two examples.

Recently, I’m sure you guys all know the PUC pass net energy metering reform. Two years ago we have seen rooftop solar sales decline by 80% and we have seen storage sales decline by 50%. So that’s a real problem for Californians as a whole, right? Because if we’re going to meet our clean energy targets, climate crisis is a crisis. We need to move fast. We were on track to provide 16,000 megawatts by 2030. That’s pretty darn close to where we needed to be. Guess what we are today after the PUC net energy metering decision? Any guesses? We’re now only on track to add 6,000 megawatts by 2030, so that’s a 70% decline. So our industry is really getting rocked right now. That’s why I’m actually really excited about Senator Min’s bill 9 38, which would prohibit utilities from using rate pair funds to lobby against our own self-interest, what’s best for customers.

I’ll give you another quick example of where we see some challenges. So at Sunnova, we believe that when we build new homes, we should build them smarter. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be equipping new homes with microgrid technology. We have really aggressive affordable housing goals in California. We all know housing is a crisis. We’re hearing from our builder partners that SCE is telling them, SCE PG e, I’m sure you guys have seen this in the news, sorry, we can’t energize these new home communities. So the utilities are truly getting in the way of our affordable housing goals as well. Our solution is, hey, listen, all new homes are already mandated to have solar in California, right? Let’s pop a battery on there. Think smart about it. Build these homes with microgrid technology where they can island from the grid and where they can also optimize energy amongst and share with each other. I think this is, a lot of people here would think this is a no-brainer, but the PUC has opposed it over and over again. So those are just two examples of some real challenges that we have as we’re trying to think about building a smarter, more affordable future.

Allie Detrio (00:24:36):
Thank you, Erin. I think that’s really important to highlight just more of these systemic barriers and being some of these agencies being captured by incumbent monopoly interests as well as some of the not allowing for the public to be heard and the public interest to be furthered by denying your application for that micro utility concept without it so much as a public hearing, which was just blasphemous in our opinion. I want to turn it over to Crystal now to kind of bring back the whole thing about some of these systemic barriers and what are you seeing in some of your work here related to that?

Crystal Huang (00:25:06):
Yeah, again, we’re in a panel about revolution, so I really want to invite all of us to take a moment to just remember what we just heard from the previous two panelists and then let’s take a step back further again, no problem can be solved with the same level of consciousness that created it. How are we actually pushing our imagination on what is possible? How much are we actually just putting band-aids over things that it’s not? I really wanted to just really name it explicitly saying that the biggest barrier is lack of imagination that we all have and our policy makers have. How do we then work together to shape that future? And a lot of that lack of imagination to me and to a lot of people that we work with in the climate justice environmental justice movement is around the fact that we cannot imagine a future that is different from what I live in today in my privileged world.

And so when we are talking about climate emergency, now, this is an emergency 200 years ago for so many indigenous people. So how are we actually listening to and we’re imagining a world that is different from what I know in the several decades that I live in this planet, but really thinking about what has been happening in the past generations from the ancestors and my neighbors and my relatives? How are we working together to figure out what that future looks like? So I will be a little more explicit now to say that when we’re talking about investment into the communities, how do we stop constantly throwing money at the same thing over and over again, throwing money at technology? When are we going to put money into the people? How are we going to invest into people who are going to use the technology? The key thing here is not the technology only.

The key thing here is how are we organizing ourselves as humans so we’re breaking out of our boxes of our homes so we can work together in neighborhoods, in blocks and communities, in states, in regions, in countries, and all of humanity. So we can ground everything we do around human rights and human dignity. Everything that we see right now in climate disaster, in all of the ills that we see outside on the streets with homelessness, with the immigration crisis at the border, with people being bombed and literally murdered with our own taxpayer money with murders that’s happening all across the globe. They’re all connected. So how are we putting money into the hands of the communities so we can actually start solving the problem in the communities that’s front and first and worse, we’re talking about investing into the communities in environmental justice communities. I see, I’ve been in so many panel discussions where we’re talking about the energy future and it’s all about these great technology, which is really awesome.

It’s cool, but we are the people. And then we have another track about fossil fuel and that’s where the people are. Why can’t we talk together? How can we actually talk about the future and revolution so we can actually build together? And that is the barrier in these conversations that I’ve experienced about energy future. Yes, technology is important, yes, policy is important, but how are we actually investing into the people so we can understand these things to design these things together so we can break again out of the boxes of our homes so we can work together as communities and really not looking ourself as just consumers. We are not just consumer. Yes, the next day will be producer, but what more? What if we can shape the future that we want to see? We’re literally at this exciting moment to shape the future of our energy and the future of our society. What are we doing to change that? This is a question I wanted to invite you all to think about throughout the day and throughout the rest of the work that you do. Really think about how are we being revolutionary and really move out of the box of consumer and think about how can we actually invest in the people so we can shape things together? And that’s the barrier.

Allie Detrio (00:28:59):
I love it.

I think Crystal did a great job kind of teeing up some questions from the audience if you guys have any questions that you want that they stay thinking about, we’re going to have another a couple more minutes and we’ll turn it over to you guys so we can really think harder about these. But on that note, crystal makes a really good point about the first and foremost thing that we need to do is be investing in our communities. And when we give empower communities to do more of these actions on clean energy, equity and empowerment, we are able to create this better future for everybody. So we’ll turn over to Aaron and Cisco. Do you guys think, what opportunities do you guys see if we did clear some of these pathways and how do you see us moving forward here with the community centric energy future?

Erin Weber Kiel (00:29:46):
So if we could clear some of the barriers and hurdles that were discussed earlier, I think I see three things, a vibrant rooftop industry that includes batteries and really enhances affordability for everyone. The second thing I see is California reclaiming its national leadership as a clean energy champion. And the third thing I would see is California leading the way in building new homes, new home communities with microgrid technology and starting to build smart

Allie Detrio (00:30:28):

Cisco DeVries (00:30:32):
I think I’m going to answer it slightly differently, which is what are these key? Those are, I completely agree. What are some of the ingredients that make that possible? Part of it is just the data itself, the access to data. I know this doesn’t sound, this isn’t revolutionary in its excitement, but it is key component of the revolution of any type that we want on climate. The energy that you use in your home is that data, how you’re using it, when you’re using it, how much you’re paying for it. That data exists, it just doesn’t exist easily for you. That data is also the gatekeeper to you getting paid for energy that you save. It is the cornerstone of anything we’re going to do with batteries or anything we’re going to do with thermostats or anything we’re going to do for renters or anybody else who then can take a little more control over their energy use and be supportive of the grid and get paid and save money and all the rest of it.

So I just want to focus for a moment on that data because it seems so silly that we paid for with taxpayer dollars, everybody to have a smart meter that tells you exactly how much energy you’re using at any given time, but you don’t actually know and that if you want to know it or use it productively, it’s quite difficult. So the first step in all of this is to set the data free, is to make it your data. One of the examples I like to use is let’s say most of you have a bank, I’m sure, and you go the bank, you say, okay, Wells Fargo, how much money do I have right now? And they’re like, last month, middle of last month you had a couple thousand dollars. Like, well, no, but what are right now? I can’t tell you that right now. That’s not until next month that I can tell you how much money you have today. Well, how much money did I spend last week? I don’t know, man.

I mean, I know. I can’t tell you I got wrong. Yeah. They’re like, well, but it’s my money and I would like to know how much I spend. And they’re like, well, it sucks for you then, but that just doesn’t, the thing that we don’t do, our technology does not allow me to see that. It’s insane. You wouldn’t accept that in any other part of your life. And energy costs are now the second largest cost of your home of residential home, second largest after renter mortgage, and you can’t track what’s happening and you can’t use that. And then once the data is free and you have access to it, and folks can use it in all these ways, it also means that you can start to get paid and adjust your energy use in real time and have actual control over what you’re spending. The price for power on the wholesale market in California on Monday got to negative $60 a megawatt hour. That means that we were paying other people to take our power. We’re like, could you please have a megawatt and I’ll give you $60? That was the deal on the table as a residential customer in California, your deal was 32 cents a kilowatt hour.

And the key to fixing that and giving you the ability to use power when it’s cheap and clean and use less when it’s expensive and dirty, is access to that data and the ability to use it.

Allie Detrio (00:33:45):
Amen. Crystal, I want to give you one last opportunity. If we were able to clear the pathway to invest more heavily in communities like you’ve been talking about, what is the future that you see before we turn over the audience?

Crystal Huang (00:33:56):
Every crisis is an opportunity. And with the net metering fight woke so many people up with the rooftop solar fight woke so many people up and more needs to be happening. So we’re talking about how can we actually shift the narrative into talking not just about yes, affordability. Yes, resiliency, yes sustainability, yes, yes, all that. But where can we be in control looking at that pyramid, how can we actually put the control into our own hands so we could really talk about a vibrant rooftop energy? We’re talking about distributed energy generation. That is where we are not far, far away. Talking about strengthening the grid today, talking about access to data of the work, how we consume so we can actually be more conscious about it. How do we actually have transparency about how utilities are doing things so we can keep them accountable? All of these things are opportunities for us to have control, and these are amazing, amazing bills that we really need to all support, but we need to do more.

We need to do more around how then can we take back control instead of yes, somebody will take care of it and it can sit back and not worry about again. Because as the saying goes, if you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu. So how do we always participate beyond just a consumer? How do we look at a vibrant rooftop solar? How do we look at access to transparency and also access to our own data? Be a tool for us to be empowered and to be in control? And these are exciting opportunities happening, and so great to be here to be in this movement with you to start this revolution.

Allie Detrio (00:35:36):
Amazing. Give our panelists a hand. That was incredible.

We really are at the tip of the spear when it comes the DER revolution or the community empowerment revolution, as I would say when it comes to energy. I think right now here in California, we have a really amazing opportunity and also a duty to keep making forward progress. So with that, I know there’s probably a lot of questions that were stimulated from this dialogue, so I want to give people an opportunity to share. Does someone just raise their hand or stand up and Yes, you first sir. And someone will come around with the microphone so that you don’t have to yell.

Speaker 7 (00:36:11):
Feel free to yell. It’s fine too. So I guess it’s called regulatory capture. That was the term other than Senator Min’s. Really neat bill about lobbying. What are the other big levers that we could use to get the PUC out of the way or get them to think differently?

Allie Detrio (00:36:30):
That’s a great question. I’ll turn it over to Aaron to answer first.

Speaker 7 (00:36:37):
Yeah, that one is not working. Oh, okay.

Erin Weber Kiel (00:36:39):
Is this working okay? No,

I appreciate the question. Yeah, of course. I mean, there’s always the short-term bills that are on the table, but I think more broadly we’re really passionate and I think Crystal certainly shares this is trying to foster energy choice for consumers. I mean, we are in a unique position in our energy environment where as a consumer, you don’t have the option to be able to evaluate what utility you want. So for example, in other areas of your life when you want to choose a cell phone provider, you get to compare a suite of options. Which one provides the best price? Which one provides the best service? And what’s going to work for me? We don’t have that choice in our energy markets today. That’s a monopoly. So I think where we’re really passionate is driving regulatory and policy change such that we can have new entrants into the market that can actually provide better energy, better service at a better price. Another bill that I want to flag, which we really love and I think is great for consumers is the Rebecca Bauer Con Bill. It’s essentially a revolving door bill, so it prevents folks who have worked for the entities like the PUC from going and then working for one of the utilities that they’ve regulated. So these are all good pieces of legislation that help us get to the core of the issue, which is again, regulatory capture.

Speaker 7 (00:38:15):
Cisco or Crystal, do you want to add anything? No, sounds great.

Allie Detrio (00:38:19):
I’ll just flag a couple other bills that I think are really important in helping to shift the energy paradigm and really get us on this DER revolution. Senator Becker who was here earlier today has a few bills on industrial decarbonization and microgrids. One in particular looking to make changes to over the fence rule is a big barrier to the development of community microgrids and allowing us to do local electron sharing across public streets or within communities. And so I think that one’s going to be a big one. Assemblyman Connolly, who represents the North Bay area also just introduced a bill on this recently, AB 31 0 7 yesterday that we’re really excited about. In addition to some of the other ones that Aaron talked about, I’d say any of the bills are really looking at tackling some of these more systemic barriers such as our issues with the fixed charges and moving to a more performance based regulatory model where it’s not just based on transmission spending and the IOUs making their money based on that, but really based on performance and serving the needs of our communities.

And frankly, I think we need to move to a model where we do have more local control and empowerment. So some of these bills like Assemblyman Connollys and Senator Becker’s really looking to put the power back in the hands of people and consumers and customers rather than in the IOUs. Was there any other questions that folks had and wanted to raise on this topic? I’m going to go to Claire Broom there and then the woman right in front of her, and then we’ll just kind of make our way through around the room if you guys want to pass the mic.

Speaker 8 (00:39:46):
Hi, Claire Broom, three 50 Bay Area. As a fellow data nerd, it really made me happy to hear Cisco’s pitch for liberating the data that we’ve already paid for. We heard from Commissioner Houck this morning that there’s now a data working group in one of the proceedings, and I’d be interested in your take on that, but I also wonder if there’s any venue to consider a lawsuit. We paid for this why, and the CCAs have been asking for data about their own customers for 12 years. So I don’t really have a lot of faith that the CPUC process will get us where we need to go. So are there other venues?

Cisco DeVries (00:40:50):
So we actually did Sue and we spent four years waiting for a decision to come out. It goes through the, it’s a lawsuit through the PUC essentially, and it became part of the working group. All of these things kind of ended up in the working group. Look, I think there’s a couple of things to say about the challenge that we’re facing with access to data and the ability for customers to use that proactively to control their energy and energy use in all the various ways. The first one is that I made sort of a joke about with your bank treated you the same way around this data, but it really is exactly like that. There’s a customer, I told this story, it’s a woman named Irene. She’s a single mom and she has a single mom with two kids and she’s one of those people she says we interview, she’s an home customer now, and I got to know her in that process, but she has a spreadsheet every month to keep really close tabs on exactly how much she’s spending.

She’s every month is really tough. I got to make it really close. She says every month the utility that comes and you’re like, whoa, I don’t know. It could be higher, it could be lower. I have no idea and I’m not doing anything that I can tell is having any impact on anything. She called it, and this is my favorite quote, one of the most opaque financial relationship in her life. And this is not somebody who is a climate warrior. She’s just trying to get her kids through school and have food on the table. So she’d love to be a climate warrior if she had some time or some money. So this was the thing. So what happened when she joined OM Connect was one, she made it 20 bucks. She started to make some money from the things, but she figured out what was using energy.

She got that information, started to use it and got control. This shouldn’t be a unique story and there is no way for us to solve the inequity of the current bills crisis, the current inequities in the system related to energy costs in general, or the transition to clean energy. Without that data, it doesn’t mean that you personally need to use it. Most people won’t. Most of the data in your life, you’re just the recipient of somebody managing it for you or doing something else. That’s fine, however you want to do it, but it is yours. And so what you hear from the utility is it’s, oh, terrorism.

I mean, I wish that was a joke, but that’s actually true. So you got to come at this several different ways. One is there are other ways to get the data and other ways to use telemetry on devices and other things to get the data. Batteries like you guys have are a great tool because you can measure the energy coming in and out of the battery directly and use that in place of the meter if you have to. The other part that you can. So we can do that with thermostats, we can do with other tools where we actually have data on exactly what’s happening and we can use that instead of the meter to get around that blockade. The other thing that we obviously can do is give people the power to go solar and do things where they actually can see it themselves and now they have an aftermarket device that tracks it. This is also what sense and some of these new smart panel companies like SPAN are doing. Do I think currently the only solution? I think I would love to see the PUC take this on for real. We need a champion at the commission to take this on. In the absence of that, we need legislation to do it.

Speaker 8 (00:44:16):
Another question, so you’ve talked about regulatory capture by the PUC or of the PUC. So my question is that of the commissioners or of the staff, and if it’s of the commissioners, then why aren’t they getting replaced by the governor?

Allie Detrio (00:44:41):
That’s a great question.

Maybe I’ll take that one first and if other panelists want to add on based on their experiences, I’d say it’s both. And I’d say it’s not just individuals, but rather it’s a systemic core barrier where there’s a way of thinking and there’s a process at the PUC that has become so opaque and so lacking transparency and even lacking access. And it’s not just one person, but I think rather it’s more of a collective body and it’s become so systemic and inherent in the PUC as a regulatory structure that that’s why we need a lot of change here. And I’d say that the capture goes beyond, again, one person or one commissioner, a staffing a staff. It really has become part of the culture. I think there’s even a paper that was written back when the wildfires first came out about the culture of entitlement with the monopolies.

And I think that stems to the regulator as well, where we just have this culture of enabling the same entities that have caused a lot of our problems to keep being the ones that provide the solutions when as crystal noted, we really need to look beyond those same entities and look for other solutions providers and other entities to do things differently. Winston Churchill, if you’re doing the same thing over and over again, that’s just the definition of insanity. So I think bigger change is necessary. I dunno if Crystal, if anyone else wants to add on. Oh,

Crystal Huang (00:46:00):
Just add briefly. I mean everything, yes, everything Allie said. As my mom says all the time, it’s not about the person, it’s about the butt that is sitting on the chair. So whoever’s going to be on the chair is going to be the problem. So the only way we can change this, I will push even further. It’s not just about the entity, it’s about our relationship with ownership with power and governance. So then now we need to then think about that carefully again, I’m going to repeat. It’s about the relationship we have with ownership power and governance. So then we have the ability to reshape what that looks like instead of just shifting the people in the same environment, system structure and culture to change the culture. We have to change the way we are being. What is the role that we’re in? How do we change out that role so we can engage with each other differently so we can use these tools for our benefit instead of the people at the top of the pyramid?

Cisco DeVries (00:46:51):
I just really quickly want to give some sympathy to both a lot of really good people in the utilities who are trying to do the right thing and a lot of really good people in the commission and in the regulatory structure at the CEC and PUC and El Kaiso trying to do the right thing. There’s no question that there’s a whole set of really difficult challenges, but underneath it, I have some compassion for the fact that basically they’re using a hundred year old set of laws to try and manage this new transition. And as much as many of them want to do something, they’re stuck. It is deeply ingrained, not just in the way that they think about it, but the systems they operate, the system the PUC operates under that doesn’t really let you engage and have a conversation. And we heard there’s whole important swaths of things that we want to talk about with the PC that they can’t talk to you about because of the rules around the commission and the quasi-judicial process that they undertake.

As an example, on our end, when OM connect and our customers reduce their energy use, it is in place of turning on a power plant. Literally we get dispatched instead of a peaker power plant turning on that is how it works. That’s how we get paid. That is awesome. But the rules say that a power plant has to run for five straight hours, five days in a row no matter what. And you know what? I can’t do that in a home, but you don’t need me to do that. That’s not how the peaks work. You have two hours, one hour, 15 minutes, you have these small peaks we can manage really well. Many people at the PUC recognize that, but their rules do not allow them at the staff level to do anything about it. So we can say, they can be like, that’s dumb.

They’re like, we have to give you a derate you on your capacity because you didn’t operate from four to 5:00 PM I’m like, you’ve never needed us at four to 5:00 PM We’ve been ready, but there’s plenty of solar. They’re like, well, because you didn’t dispatch, even though we didn’t need you and there was no money in it for you, we’re going to have to give you less next year. And that is because of a rule that way back goes way back. So that’s when I say we need leadership at the PUC and these other things, it doesn’t negate all of the other issues we’re talking about. It means that that has to get rooted out one by one or we need to come out with a totally different approach to it. I’m running out of patience and I think we’re running out of time for the one by one approach. The alternative is do something big wholesale, which will be quite messy, but we can’t do what we’re doing now because the system itself, even though the people want to do the right thing inside of it, often they are prohibited because of a system that was made for an electrical generation system that was created over a century ago.

Erin Weber Kiel (00:49:48):
Quick thing. Yeah, just quickly. I mean, I think your question is spot on and everybody in this room has agency to contact the governor and talk about the need for reform at the PUC. And at the end of the day, he is the one who appoints these commissioners. So I don’t want us to feel like it has to be this way and we’re trapped within the existing regulatory structure. Like he’s accountable to every person in this room and we desperately need reform and we need it fast.

Allie Detrio (00:50:18):
Yeah, I think that’s really important to highlight. We had 20th, 20th century energy system of big power plants, poles and wires to achieve 20th century goals to electrify America. And I can think we can all confidently say that we’ve achieved a lot of those goals. And so now we do need to move in the 21st century energy system. And that requires us to update the regulatory model and the paradigm for these new goals that we have, including decarbonization, equity, sustainability, resilience goals that we’re just not a priority in the 20th century are a focus. And so I do really encourage everyone to think about that. We really need to think about our 21st century energy goals and what is the regulatory structure and the system that we need in order to meet all of those. And so yes, you and the green, thank you for your patience.

Speaker 9 (00:51:00):
Thank you. Well, first of all, that conversation was great. I actually did work at the PUC and was one of the people trying to do good stuff, but it is very difficult and I think the last comment is the most important because the governor, there is no will at the governor to change it. Just FYI. So if you guys want to do that, you can work on it. I think it would be great. And this governor won’t be around very much longer, but we should probably think about who the next governor will be and what their position will be. So I think what I wanted to mention is just that in my work at the PDC, I learned a lot about solar industry and it changed my mind and DER technology industry and I learned that they are just like any other corporation, they’re primarily profit driven.

And that is a problem because we had a huge problem with fraud in our, I’m from San Joaquin Valley. I now currently work at Central California Asthma Collaborative. And so we worked on all these farm workers who had been sold solar and had multiple pays loans put on their homes without them signing any paperwork. And there was just a whole mess of fraud and no consumer protections, and it was the wild west. And so we’re now having to go back and fix that, but it’s a little bit late with those populations because those communities do not trust solar. And I, I’ll tell you, they still come to my house every day. I have solar, whatever, I know what I’m doing. And I wrote the consumer protection guide, so I know about it, but we have a lot of work to do back with the vulnerable communities to regain their trust in the technology.

And then also, I don’t know, the woman speaking crystal, there’s the technology gap, there’s broadband gaps in those communities, and then there’s the language isolation. So there’s a whole bunch of issues that we have to deal with if we really want to have this work across our state in all the populations that we still have not, I don’t think sufficiently addressed. And I would love to hear your thoughts on how do we make sure that there’s better consumer protections and better financing and better all that to make sure that we’re protecting all of our people.

Allie Detrio (00:53:06):
Yeah, thank you so much for that comment and those questions. I think I will just start saying before I hand it over to Aaron and Cisco and let Crystal close us out here with them, what do we need to do to make sure the consumers are protected and make sure that there is an opportunity for everyone to rebuild the trust? I will say one thing about the difference between the legacy Monopoly investor owned utility corporations and all of the other service providers out here is that there’s true competitive marketplace that keeps you honest. And yes, there are some bad apples, no doubt about it, but we can’t let that ruin the, the fundamental difference between the investor owned utilities and the farmers market I would say of all these different service providers is that there really is not a monopoly or the requirement to work with them.

Investor owned utilities, they can say to you as customers and consumers and communities, take it or leave it. And really it’s just take it. You can’t even leave it. Whereas all of these different service providers are not only competing for your business, but we can form these different types of public private partnerships, these partnerships with nonprofits and trusted community-based organizations. And really at the end of the day, you have choice. There’s competition in the marketplace. To keep you honest, there’s a variety of options where you couldn’t really choose which energy solutions meet your needs. And I would say all of these corporations, yes, they still have to make money to pay their people and actually build these solutions, but they’re doing it in service of the communities versus the monopoly. Corporations don’t have to do anything in service of anyone except their shareholders. So while there is a profit motive involved in the private sector, I would say it’s a much different one. So I would encourage everyone to think differently about just the bad corporations. All they’re out to do is make money. There’s a lot more to it than that. Maybe I’ll let Aaron go first in answering some of the questions in Cisco and let Crystal close it out.

Erin Weber Kiel (00:54:50):
Sure. Yeah, I appreciate the question, but I think as Ali pointed out, solar is no different than any other business. Yes, of course. We have to make money and the cost to run a solar business are actually really staggering when you kind of drill down into all the regulatory hurdles that we have. But yeah, I mean, going with the solar company is not like any other business. You got to do your research. You got to really make sure that you’re reading about the warranty. We’re one of the few folks in the industry that has a 25 year warranty. So anything that happens on your roof when it’s getting installed, I mean we cover it. So I think we’re leaders in that space and we’re trying to push the envelope with the industry nationally because there are some bad actors for sure. And the last thing we want is them preying on vulnerable populations.

So we have a bunch of other procedures in place where we do double, triple checks to make sure that the customer understands exactly what’s going on. But yeah, I appreciate the question and if you want to talk more about consumer protection, the real issue that we hear about from customers is we need protections from the utilities as it relates to trying to get our systems turned on and our energy bills. I mean, truly that’s the number one complaint that we hear from customers. And I’ll just close by saying we did some analysis recently to understand, this has come up a lot recently in the national press, and I believe our numbers showed that of all the solar customers and installations complaints account for like 0.5%. So I think we’re doing a pretty darn good job as an industry.

Cisco DeVries (00:56:38):
I second that. Look, we have an absolutely challenging thing to get everybody in their homes to do things differently about energy, whether they’re getting solar or an electric vehicle or a heat pump or a thermostat. It’s a different way of a thinking about something you’ve never had to think about before. And in that disinformation and in that change comes both incredible opportunity, but it also comes with risk and perfect will be the enemy. The good there is not a perfect way to do this. However, I think learning from the challenges we’ve had before, both not we talked about with solar, but in any of the technological or phone or any of the other transitions that we’ve gone over in the last 10 years, there’s a lot We’ve learned, the digital divide, the energy divide, all of these things. So we’ve got to balance all of that.

I wanted to just mention two quick things here as we sort of close that out, because the first is solar in the United States costs about double what it costs in most other developed countries. And that’s not because sunnova is making so much money. That’s because we’ve created a system that is broken because the utility, not just the utility part, the city permitting part, all of the various pieces and components of it, our conspiring against us on the costs and we’ve got to solve that. And that’s actually something that we can point fingers all the time. But if you sit back and say, in this country we’re spending twice as much for the same thing as most other countries and not poor countries like Europe and everywhere else, places that are heavily regulated, that’s on us. We can fix that and we have to fix that. So I want to take that internally and do that. The second thing I want to do is just note that we can point to a lot of legislation. There’s a Henry Stern bill on virtual power plants. I’m a big supporter of got some work to do, talk to Cliff if you have questions. I’m trying to remember the number 1305 and I wanted to say that. So there’s great stuff we can do with legislation, but mostly we need to make it happen on the ground. And that is up to all of us,

Erin Weber Kiel (00:58:45):

Crystal Huang (00:58:46):
Great. Alright. I love this question. Thanks for closing out with this amazing question, but protecting the people, because we want to break the pyramid. We have to figure out how to build the base and what is the role of the state. The role of the state is the public. It’s all of us. So how are we actually investing into the community? When I buy a TV or buy whatever big purchase I ask my friends, and same thing. How do I actually build the capacity to read the warranty and do the research? Most of the time I’m not, I’m going to ask my friend who knows this stuff, who tells me what to do. And so how can we build these pockets of communities who have these know-hows, and that is what the role of the state is, is to invest into the community, to build the capacity to understand what is going on so they can build the trust within each other.

So then we can keep whoever is doing these things accountable. Let it be investor and utilities. Today, tomorrow, big corporations elsewhere. I mean, look at us people Power solo cooperative. We came out because after many years of advocacy work with the CEC and at the CPUC, trying to make climate justice community owned solar possible, trying to say that communities can and want to and have the ability to actually shape our energy future. The CEC and the CPUC just keeps throwing homework at us. Oh, do this homework, do that research, do that research, bring it back to us. We realize we can’t be wasting our time doing research for the CPUC. We got to live the life that we believe we need to. So we came up with this idea of building a cooperative and thankfully we got funded by the CEC to make this happen. So that’s what we need more of the government funding, investing into communities, building community-based solutions. And that’s how we can build that base and protect the consumer so that no matter what happens, we are protected by each other. Amen. Well, everyone, please join me in thanking our panelists for arousing discussion. I’m sorry we’re at time, but please connect with us after in the break, we’d be happy to answer more questions to continue this discussion. Really appreciate everyone’s engagement. And

Kurt Johnson (01:00:45):
Just to remind people, so this was the dynamite panel. So again, thank you all of you. Allie Crystal, Cisco, Erin, fabulous information. Cisco was just talking about virtual power plants. That’s the next panel. It starts here in nine minutes. That’s like a bathroom break time. The big break time is after the next panel, which goes from two 40 to three 40. Then there’s a 20 minute break where there’s goodies and whatnot. So come back to hear about virtual power plants here in nine minutes. Thank you.