The California Energy Commission approved two research grants totaling more than $5m to study turning food and forest waste into bioelectric energy generation.

More than $1 million was awarded to the University of California, Davis, for a project focusing on forest waste. In response to Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s call to remove dead trees to reduce fire risk, the Energy Commission is supporting efforts to utilize forest waste caused by tree mortality to produce renewable energy that can respond to changes in energy demand.

UC Davis will use the grant to develop an online siting tool that will allow project managers to look at several factors such as environmental impacts, transportation costs, and location of fire hazard severity zones when deciding on where and how to develop a bioenergy power plant that converts woody biomass into electricity. The tool is expected to decrease the pre-development costs associated with siting bioenergy facilities.

The second research grant of $4 million was awarded to HZIU Kompogas SLO, Inc. to construct, demonstrate, and operate a community-scale bioenergy facility in San Luis Obispo. The plant will convert San Luis Obispo County’s organic waste, including food waste, into renewable electricity that will be exported to the grid to benefit Pacific Gas and Electric Company ratepayers. The plant will also produce liquid fertilizer for farming and residential gardening.

Food waste will be picked up from residential green bins and commercial businesses, and processed along with residential yard waste in the digester. The resulting biogas will be extracted and used to generate electricity. The company estimates the plant will produce enough energy to cover the annual consumption of more than 600 homes.

The Energy Commission also approved $5 million to Newcomb Anderson McCormick, Inc. to conduct a large-scale demonstration of energy monitoring and control devices at approximately 55,000 computer workstations across 35 community colleges. This project will determine how to scale up the technology and provide additional insight on how building owners can use real-time data and control strategies to significantly cut computer workstation energy use, which is the largest plug-load energy use in educational facilities.

The projects were funded through the Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Program, which supports innovations and strategies to advance clean energy technologies that help California meet its energy and climate goals.

The Energy Commission also approved guidelines for publicly owned utilities’ integrated resource plans. These plans provide a framework for utilities to report on how they expect to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and address a number of energy-related policy goals by 2030, as outlined in Senate Bill 350. The plans are to be adopted by January 1, 2019 and updated at least once every five years.

Equilon Enterprises, LLC, which does business as Shell Oil Products US, received more than $16 million to develop seven new hydrogen stations in Northern California. Three will be located in San Francisco, one in Walnut Creek, one in Berkeley and two in the Sacramento region. The stations will help expand the hydrogen refueling network in California. With today’s approval, the Energy Commission has funded 60 stations statewide, with 29 currently in operation.