Blog Post

SimpliPhi CEO: CA Must Reform 
Its Energy Market & Infrastructure

As Californians face fires, shutoffs, and billions in losses, 
SimpliPhi CEO calls on policymakers to restructure the state’s energy markets and infrastructure to mandate distributed energy and real safety.

Oxnard, CA (November 12, 2019) — Catherine Von Burg, CEO of SimpliPhi Power Inc., an Oxnard-based provider of innovative energy storage systems, today called on California officials to reform the state’s antiquated energy laws, regulations and infrastructure, and adopt distributed energy generation and storage to provide real long-term solutions and greater safety than the state-approved “Public Safety Power Shutoffs” (PSPS), which have inflicted hardship on millions of Californians and more than $2.5B in economic losses.

“California must urgently reform our energy infrastructure and policies to better protect the public and the world’s 5th largest economy from fires, outdated electrical infrastructure and widespread power shutoffs,” said Von Burg, who launched SimpliPhi Power’s “Energize California” program to help utility customers obtain distributed energy generation and storage to protect their homes, businesses, schools and health clinics, most of which have no back-up energy sources.

“The ‘Public Safety Power Shutoffs’ don’t provide long-term safety to Californians,” said Von Burg, a board member of the California Solar + Storage Association (CALSSA). “Shutting off power is tragically touted as the primary solution to avoiding fires. Yet fires started and spread despite the shutoffs, including the Maria fire in Ventura County, started when a shutoff transmission line was reenergized.

“These draconian shutoffs, which PG&E says could last a decade, don’t even begin to address the innovation, decentralization and reform we need to protect our lives, communities and economy, and to achieve the state’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2045,” Von Burg said. “We need to update our entire system of laws, incentives and regulations to provide real long-term safety and prosperity.’

“Among its first steps, California should immediately require that utilities embrace renewables and distributed, customer-sited energy generation and storage,” said Von Burg, seen here presenting at a Google tech conference. “Distributed energy systems, such as those we and our California-based partners have already deployed at Stone Edge Farm in Sonoma, former Gov. Jerry Brown’s ranch, Whole Foods, and the LADWP, can protect Californians from the catastrophic damages we’ve seen, and will more than pay for themselves.”

Von Burg called on state officials to convene a special initiative to transform the state’s energy system, and end policies that have created an outdated, inefficient and now dangerous centralized grid. “California needs new laws and regulations that foster a far more safe, customer-focused, resilient and innovative system,” she said.

“California policymakers, regulators and utilities need to adopt rather than continue to resist common sense innovations that we and other California companies are already deploying all over the world, and that can provide all Californians with 21st Century energy independence and security,” Von Burg said.

“A growing number of people, businesses and other organizations are taking up renewables, now that they generally cost less than new fossil fuel generation,” Von Burg said. “But California has allowed utilities to mandate tying local solar power to the grid rather than letting the homes and businesses that paid for them to access that power directly. As a result, most people don’t realize that the solar panels on their homes and businesses shut down when the grid goes down. And utilities generally take many months to approve interconnection agreements for renewables and energy storage. Given the shutoffs’ massive human and economic toll, utilities should be required to fast-track – and share in the cost of – distributed, customer-sited energy storage and solar generation. Distributed assets benefit both the customers and the utilities that serve them. It is a false choice to cast distributed energy and centralized infrastructure as an either/or proposition.”

“For decades, California has been a global leader in technological innovation and environmental and health protection. We need to bring that same leadership to solve our growing energy crisis brought on by rising heat, drought, winds, and outdated infrastructure and state policies,” said Von Burg. “The Governor’s office, the legislature, the CPUC, and the utilities can take action far beyond the shutoffs. Companies right here in California have developed some of the most innovative energy solutions in the world. Let us help you help Californians.”

Von Burg pointed to widespread frustration over the shutoffs to millions of customers in waves over this past month, the estimated $2.5 billion cost to the state economy, PG&E’s warnings that shutoffs could continue for 10 years, Gov. Newsom’s demand for rebates after calling the shutoffs “unacceptable,” and growing calls from businesses and municipal officials such as San José Mayor Liccardo to break from PG&E by creating microgrids.

“These are just the latest signs that disruption of California’s dangerously outdated energy infrastructure is inevitable and accelerating, and state officials need to manage this disruption to protect the public,” Von Burg said. “Our antiquated energy regulatory system has encouraged utilities to operate as inefficient monopolies that have resisted innovation and, according to Governor Newsom, put ‘profits… greed and mismanagement’ over ‘public safety.’ Let’s work together to fix these problems.”

“Our utilities are at a classic inflection point that we’ve seen in multiple industries when innovation disrupts old models: If they embrace the new technologies being adopted all around them, they will grow stronger and better protect the public. If they continue to resist the transformative economic potential of decentralized power generation and storage, and the energy independence, security and cost savings that come with it, then our utilities will continue to bring incalculable pain and economic damage to Californians, as forward-thinking companies and policymakers like San José’s mayor will pass them by.”

Gov. Newsom’s April 12 Strike Force report on California’s Energy Future, which found that utility equipment actually caused 2,000 fires over four years, makes some constructive recommendations. However, state officials will better serve the public if they prioritize renewables, customer-sited distributed energy generation and storage, and other means of providing energy independence and security.

“In addition to keeping the lights on when the grid goes off, distributed energy generation and storage – paired with on-site solar generation – offsets rising CO2 & other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuel generation, the root cause behind the heat, drought and strong winds that cause fires and force utilities to shut down,” Von Burg said. “As the federal Department of Energy points out, distributed storage can also solve the “duck curve” problem that utilities claim prevents more solar adoption. With distributed storage, excess solar power generated during the day (the duck curve) can be stored in batteries, rather than sent to the grid, creating precious reserves that can be used through the night or during utility shutdowns. This creates the triple benefits of energy security, lower emissions and cost savings for customers, California’s economy and utilities themselves.”

Decentralized energy generation and storage has been advocated by leading minds in energy innovation including – right here in California – Mark Z. Jacobson, Tony Seba and Michael Wara of Stanford University, Alexandra von Meier at the University of California, Jigar Shah of Generate Capital, and Hunter Lovins, a pioneer in environmentalism and sustainable development, author, professor and SimpliPhi Power board member.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has said the Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS or “De-Energization”) are designed to “strengthen utility preparedness for emergencies, and to improve utility services during and after emergencies.” But these are only the most short-term and short-sighted steps, Von Burg said.

“Given that thousands of fires have continued to burn through the shutoffs, and that the technologies available to provide energy independence are being adopted all around us, the shutoff strategy is a blunt instrument that doesn’t solve the problem, while far more precise and protective tools are readily available,” Von Burg said.

“The shutoff strategy does not innovate, restructure or build additional capacity into the state’s energy system to meet the demands of the 21st Century. And it leaves millions of homes, businesses, schools and hospitals vulnerable. Our state now needs to turn its focus from “De-energization” to how to keep families, businesses and communities safe with a combination of centralized and distributed assets that ‘Energize California.’”

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About SimpliPhi Power

With a mission to create universal access to reliable, safe and affordable energy, SimpliPhi Power designs and manufactures efficient, non-toxic and enduring energy storage and management systems that utilize  environmentally benign lithium ferro phosphate (LFP) battery chemistry. Based in Oxnard, California, SimpliPhi combines the non-hazardous LFP energy storage chemistry with its proprietary cell and battery architecture, power electronics, Battery Management System (BMS) and manufacturing processes to create safe, reliable, durable and highly scalable on-demand power solutions for the residential, commercial, military, emergency response and film industries. Integral to all SimpliPhi Power solutions is a proprietary management system that further optimizes the life-cycle, performance and durability of its batteries. SimpliPhi Power storage system components are UL certified and have been rigorously tested and passed requirements by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. For more information, please visit SimpliPhipower.com and follow us @SimpliPhiPower or Facebook and LinkedIn.

To schedule an interview, please contact:
Barclay Palmer at barclayp@simpliphipower.com or
Claire Reyes at clairer@simpliphipower.com