Research Focus Areas
California faces significant challenges in meeting the transportation demands of its growing population. Those challenges include:
- Reducing carbon emissions.
- Decreasing reliance on fossil fuels.
- Improving infrastructure capacity, reliability, and sustainability.
- Improving air quality.
- Increasing the use of alternative and renewable fuels.
The following sections describe legislation and policy that guide the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Transportation program on meeting California's challenges:
- Assembly Bill 118
- Assembly Bill 32
- Integrated Energy Policy Report
- Low-Carbon Fuels Standard
- Senate Bill 1250
- Senate Bill 76
- State Alternative Fuels Plan
Assembly Bill 118
Assembly Bill 118 (Núñez, Chapter 750, Statutes of 2007) created the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, through which the Energy Commission will allocate up to 120 million dollars per year to increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels and innovative technologies to help attain the state's climate change goals.
Assembly Bill 32
Assembly Bill 32 , the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Núñez, Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006), requires in law a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The California Air Resources Board (ARB), the lead agency for implementing AB 32, has developed a Scoping Plan outlining the State's strategy to achieve the 2020 greenhouse gas emissions limit. This Scoping Plan, developed by ARB in coordination with the Climate Action Team (CAT), proposes a comprehensive set of actions designed to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in California, improve our environment, reduce our dependence on oil, diversify our energy sources, save energy, create new jobs, and enhance public health. Actions to be taken in the transportation sector to achieve these objectives include:
- The Low-Carbon Fuel Standard.
- Regional Transportation-Related Greenhouse Gas Targets.
- Vehicle Efficiency Measures.
Integrated Energy Policy Report
The California Energy Commission adopts an Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) every two years and an update every other year, recommending strategies to meet the state's energy needs and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as required by Senate Bill 1389 (Bowen, Statutes of 2002, Chapter 568). The IEPR assesses and forecasts all aspects of energy industry supply, production, transportation, delivery and distribution, demand, and prices. The Energy Commission uses these assessments and forecasts to develop energy policies that:
- Conserve resources.
- Protect the environment.
- Ensure energy reliability.
- Enhance the state's economy.
- Protect public health and safety.
The following are a few of the transportation-related recommendations in the 2005 and 2007 IEPRs:
- Vehicle Technologies
- Advance vehicle technologies that support a diverse portfolio of fuels that address both current supply and demand problems and build a sustainable foundation for the future.
- Improve vehicle efficiency by increasing the number of hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
- Alternative Fuels
- Simultaneously reduce petroleum fuel use, increase fuel diversity and security, and reduce emissions of air pollution and greenhouse gases.
- Establish a non-petroleum diesel fuel standard so that all diesel fuel sold in California contains a minimum of 5 percent non-petroleum content that would include biodiesel, ethanol, and/or gas-to-liquid components.
- Establish a state renewable gasoline fuel standard so that the pool of all gasoline sold in California contains, on average, a minimum of 10 percent renewable content.
- Increase alternative fuels use to 9 percent by 2012, 11 percent by 2017, and 26 percent by 2022 to meet the AB 1007 goals that reduce petroleum fuels use and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Support research for the development of technologies to convert California's biomass resources to ethanol.
- Land-Use Planning
- Research how investor-owned utilities can help develop the equipment and infrastructure to fuel electric and natural gas vehicles.
- Adopt a unified statewide growth management plan, based on local and regional plans, aligning state planning, financing, infrastructure, and regulatory land use policies and programs.
- Require regional transportation planning and air quality agencies to adopt 25-year and 50-year regional growth plans that provide housing, transportation, and community services for projected population increases while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to state-determined climate change targets.
- Implement measures to reduce vehicle miles traveled.
Low-Carbon Fuels Standard
The California Air Resources Board is implementing the Low-Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS), which will require fuel providers in California to ensure that the mix of fuel they sell into the California market meet, on average, a declining standard for GHG emissions. This first-of-its-kind policy seeks to reduce the GHG impact from California's use of transportation fuels and diversify its fuels portfolio by establishing:
- A Low-Carbon Fuel Standard for transportation fuels sold in California.
- An initial LCFS goal of reducing the carbon intensity of California's passenger vehicle fuels by at least 10 percent by 2020.
Senate Bill 1250
In 2006, Senate Bill 1250 (Perata, Chapter 512, Statutes of 2006) reauthorized funding for the PIER Program from 2007 to 2011 and sharpened the Energy Commission's research priorities. Specifically, SB 1250 states that the general goal of the PIER program is to develop and help bring to market energy technologies that provide increased environmental benefits, greater system reliability, and lower system costs. These energy technologies must provide tangible benefits to electric and natural gas utility customers through the following investments:
- Advanced transportation technologies that reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions beyond applicable standards and that benefit electricity and natural gas ratepayers.
- Increased energy efficiency in buildings, appliances, lighting, and other applications that are beyond applicable standards and benefit electric utility customers.
- Advanced electricity generation technologies that exceed applicable standards, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation, and benefit electric utility customers.
- Advanced electricity technologies that reduce or eliminate consumption of water or other finite resources, increase use of renewable energy resources, or improve transmission or distribution of electricity generated from renewable energy resources.
Senate Bill 76
Senate Bill 76 (Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review, Chapter 91, Statutes of 2005), enacted by the Legislature as trailer bill language to the fiscal year 05-06 Budget Act, enabled the Natural Gas and Electric programs to include transportation-related research. It requires the PIER Program to plan, with California Air Resources Board, transportation research that would benefit ratepayers by promoting:
- Transportation energy efficiency.
- A reduction of health and environmental impacts from air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions related to electricity and natural gas production and use.
- An increased use of alternative fuels.
State Alternative Fuels Plan
Directed by Assembly Bill 1007, (Pavley, Chapter 371, Statutes of 2005) the Energy Commission, in partnership with the Air Resources Board, developed a State Alternative Fuels Plan (SAFP) to increase the use of alternative fuels without adversely affecting air quality, water quality, and public health. The SAFP describes strategies, highlights actions, and recommends mechanisms to concurrently address multiple state policy goals in an integrated fashion. These include petroleum reduction, GHG reduction, in-state biofuel production, and air quality goals. Objectives of the SAFP include:(Pavley, Chapter 371, Statutes of 2005)
- Evaluating alternative fuels using a full fuel cycle analysis.
- Setting goals to increase the use of alternative fuels in 2012, 2017, and 2022.
- Recommending policies, such as standards, financial incentives, and research and development programs, to stimulate the development of an alternative fuel supply, new vehicles and technologies, and fueling stations.
The SAFP recommends research that will accelerate the growth of alternative fuels, displacing more than 4 billion gasoline gallon equivalents (20 percent) in 2020. This could grow to at least 30 percent by 2030. By 2050, alternative fuels could provide more than half the energy needed to power California's transportation system.