Major funding provided for California energy research

By Diane LaMacchia

California's largest gas and electric utilities have agreed to continue funding the research of the LBL-based California Institute for Energy Efficiency. CIEE receives about $4 million a year in voluntary funding from the utilities.

CIEE's research, conducted at laboratories and campuses across the state, is aimed at designing and demonstrating energy- efficient technologies to heat and cool California homes and commercial buildings, and at improving urban air quality.

"CIEE has demonstrated the innovative role it can play in connecting California's best researchers with the state's utility professionals and energy policy makers," says LBL director Charles V. Shank.

One project has resulted in proposed improvements in residential heating and air conditioning ductwork that promise to save California taxpayers more than $300 million a year. Another project explored the market potential of electric and natural gas-powered cars and their effectiveness in reducing air pollution and reliance on imported oil.

CIEE also helped fund work in LBL's Energy and Environment Division to develop gas-filled panels (see "Currents", Nov.15, 1991), an insulating material that could be used in home appliances to replace ozone layer-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

CIEE was formed in 1988 as a partnership. Party to the agreement signed last month were California's largest utilities -- Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, PG&E, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, San Diego Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and Southern California Gas -- and LBL, the University of California, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California Energy Commission (CEC), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Included in the agreement is a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), which enables DOE laboratories and private industry to work together to develop technology with good potential for commercial applications.

According to CEC commissioner Art Kevorkian, CIEE's research "will directly contribute to more enlightened statewide energy policy in the years ahead."