An EPIC Approach to Deploying Advanced Energy Communities - CivicWell

An EPIC Approach to Deploying Advanced Energy Communities

This year, the CEC awarded 13 projects through The EPIC Challenge: Accelerating the Deployment of Advanced Energy Communities solicitation.

Climate Change & Energy


December 22, 2016


This year, the California Energy Commission (CEC) awarded 13 projects through The EPIC Challenge: Accelerating the Deployment of Advanced Energy Communities solicitation. The purpose of this solicitation is to fund a competition that will challenge project teams comprised of building developers, local governments, technology developers, researchers, utilities, and other project partners to spend 18 months developing innovative and replicable plans for accelerating the deployment of Advanced Energy Communities.

This Phase I solicitation focuses on researching barriers and opportunities, designing frameworks and master plans, and developing models and tools for target pilot communities. These projects will be eligible for Phase II funding to implement specific projects in the pilot communities, most of which aim to develop microgrids or advance zero net energy implementation.

As the program is intended pilot energy systems of the future and to create replicable models, there is tremendous potential for these projects to have a transformative impact in the pilot communities, as well as for all of California’s communities.

About the Advanced Energy Communities Projects

Santa Monica Advanced Energy District
The intent of the project is to integrate a small, localized microgrid consisting of onsite renewable generation and energy storage based at the City Yards and Bergamot Arts Center. This microgrid would provide efficient, reliable, and cost-effective energy that has a low environmental and carbon impact. It could also store energy, allowing the City Yards and surrounding businesses to continue critical operations in case of a major power outage. The project team will develop a feasibility study that explore the legal, regulatory, technical, and financial landscape for microgrid development.

Integrated Community Resource Marketplace: Energize Fresno
The Energize Fresno project will develop a blueprint for an “Energy Opportunity Zone” along the Blackstone Corridor and Downtown. The project team will identify projects that deliver significant resource savings and attract more investment into the community, and develop a tool that streamlines the project-funding matching process to accelerate action. By concentrating initially at a neighborhood scale, Energize Fresno aims to facilitate building and infrastructure upgrades to reduce costs, and improve community health and prosperity.  Ultimately, the Energy Opportunity Zone will become a model for communities across the state— helping to raise the visibility of energy, water and transportation investment opportunities in Fresno.

Berkeley Energy Assurance Transformation (BEAT) Project
The BEAT project will develop an innovative, scalable, and replicable model for advancing energy reliability, increasing energy efficiency and sustainable water use, and improving access to clean energy for public and private facilities in a dense urban context by developing a demonstration microgrid in downtown Berkeley that connects multiple facilities into a Clean Energy Microgrid Community (CEMC). The BEAT project will analyze and illustrate the regulatory, operational, financial, and technological feasibility of CEMCs and, based on that analysis, develop a case study and shovel-ready Downtown Berkeley Clean Energy Microgrid Community Pilot Plan to be built in Phase II.

Peninsula Advanced Energy Community (PAEC)
The PAEC project will address policy, permitting, and financing barriers impeding the development of Advanced Energy Communities. The project team will develop comprehensive financial and business models to help make AECs affordable and attractive investments; work with utilities to reduce the time, cost, and uncertainty associated with connecting distributed energy resources to the grid; create a model electric vehicle charging infrastructure master plan; valuate the technical and economic feasibility of sustainability features for the town of Atherton’s new Civic Center; conduct a comprehensive survey to identify all commercial-scale sites capable of hosting solar PV installations 100 kW and larger; and design a Solar Emergency Microgrid. The PAEC region includes all of San Mateo County and the City of Palo Alto, and the project will focus primarily on southern San Mateo County.

Huntington Beach Advanced Energy Community Blueprint
The project team will develop and apply master community design tools to integrate innovative, high efficiency, and sustainable energy technologies into a Huntington Beach community. The project will become an example and blueprint for the entire State of California regarding how communities can be revitalized, become more sustainable, and lower energy costs. In this project, the team will integrate and optimize promising new energy innovations into a unified system that efficiently interacts with the existing community electrical grid/infrastructure/buildings, serves various end-uses, obtains performance data for scale-up, and performs cost-benefit analyses for demonstrating economic feasibility.

Accelerating AEC Deployment Around Existing Buildings in Disadvantaged Communities
This project combines academic research with on-the-ground expertise in an approach that is uniquely positioned to overcome the challenges associated with deploying Advanced Energy Communities (AECs) around existing buildings in disadvantaged communities, and which will generate practical, implementable knowledge. This partnership effort involves unprecedented data analysis and comprehensive community engagement, assesses local obstacles to state code implementation, and lays the groundwork for product and service aggregation at scale. The focus area will be the disadvantaged communities within the City of Claremont, CA.

Zero Net Energy Farms
The Zero Net Energy Farms project aims to enable farms to generate all electrical and heating power needs from on-site renewable resources, while reducing greenhouse gas footprints. Additional benefits of the project include increasing the security, reliability and efficiency of the electrical grid, as well as reducing the cost of expanding capacity to meet California’s swelling population growth. The goal of the project is to establish a template for ranches, farms, and other agricultural interests throughout California’s Central Valley and beyond.

EnSEED (Encanto Social-Economic and environmental Education Development)
This project aims to transform the Southeastern community of Encanto, a neighborhood in the City of San Diego, into a zero net energy community. The proposed technical solution consists of a distributed energy system that optimizes energy use, upgrading existing residential and commercial businesses and working with the local school district to provide local renewable energy resources to provide electric energy, including heating and cooling to residents living in this largely underserved community. The project team will develop a Master Plan.

The Oakland EcoBlock – A ZNE, Low Water Use Retrofit Project
The EcoBlock is an urban sustainability experiment in Oakland, CA that brings together residents of a local neighborhood block and a multi-disciplinary team. Built on local community buy-in, the project will apply a whole-systems design approach to retrofitting the block from a high energy and water dependency to the lowest energy and water footprint possible – transforming an obsolete, resource-wasteful model into an integrated design that guarantees long-term sustainability.

ZipPower San Leandro
San Leandro will be the pilot city in a new public-private collaboration to design a citywide local energy program that can be scaled rapidly to other communities. The ZipPower platform proposes economies of scale for deploying solar, battery storage, electric vehicle chargers and other energy-related hardware; connecting renewable energy assets through PG&E and Lit San Leandro into a San Leandro-based micro grid that provides grid resilience, security and reduced energy costs; and proposes substantial economic benefits through new local jobs and entrepreneurship.

Charge Bliss Advanced Renewable Energy Community
Charge bill will design a net zero emissions neighborhood for a disadvantaged community in the County of Los Angeles. The project aims to demonstrate the intersection of science/technology and social/civil needs.

Lancaster Advanced Energy Community Project Project
In an effort to help Lancaster achieve its goal of becoming the first zero net energy city, this project will develop innovated distributed energy resources and ZNE planning and permitting resources to lower interconnection costs and increase energy resiliency in the community. This include developing a flexible and transparent financial model to assess the economic viability of using land-secured financing for solar and other technologies.

Information regarding the Richmond Advanced Energy Community Project has not yet been released broadly.

About the EPIC Program and Key Related Resources

The Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Program, established by the California Public Utilities Commission and administered by the California Energy Commission, funds leading-edge energy research and development projects to provide more reliable, lower-cost, and safer electricity to ratepayers. The CEC funds projects that create or build upon clean energy solutions such as zero net energy buildings, micro-grids, renewable energy, the electrification of transportation, and developing technologies and approaches for the 21st century power grid.

The 2016 EPIC Symposium was hosted on December 1, 2016 by California Energy Commission staff, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), and Southern California Edison Company (SCE). To view individual presentations, please visit

The new Energy Innovation Showcase website also provides information on the research and development projects funded through the EPIC program.