Energy research and development
To bring the benefits of emerging technologies to our customers, we constantly research, evaluate and test innovative and sustainable energy solutions.
Through rigorous testing, we're able to objectively assess technologies and their benefits. Learn about some of our recent projects below.
If you have questions or comments, please email the Energy Research & Development Project Management Office.
We provide leadership on technical, economic and policy issues associated with climate change and its impacts on SMUD and the region we serve. The program focuses on concepts that support our Sustainable Power Supply objective, 2030 Clean Energy Vision, the Water-Energy Nexus, electrification and other de-carbonization strategies.
- We created and managed the Living Future Project Accelerator – the first fully certified Living Building in CA and the first adaptive reuse project in the world. We worked closely with the Arch Nexus Living Building downtown and continue to share information and inspire more local participation in the International Living Future Institute’s all-electric Living Building and Community Challenges.
- We completed a feasibility study of a forest health project in collaboration with the US Forest Service. Together we proposed a long-term research effort to understand the impact of forest thinning on stream flow into SMUD’s UARP reservoirs.
- We completed a first-of-its-kind technical assessment of the potential for carbon sequestration in the land base in Sacramento County. This assessment showed that carbon stored in plant material and soils represents a large pool of potential GHG emissions, and that land use changes and land management practices can influence the result.
- We engaged with E3 and SMUD Business Planning staff to develop a downscaled Pathways analysis, local load impacts and load shapes to evaluate 2040 zero and near-zero carbon scenarios in SMUD’s IRP process.
Our work helps determine the functional, operational and market viability of new technologies to reduce peak demand while giving customers options to manage their electric bills, improve air quality and fight global warming.
- We integrated a 90kW/126kWh battery with the Grid Rabbit energy management system at the Hyatt Regency hotel downtown. This project will evaluate the system’s ability to provide demand-response, demand management, manage EV chargers and provide additional grid services.
- We modeled the economic value of scheduling chiller dispatch for SMUD HQ’s Thermal Energy Storage system using the hourly avoided energy costs from CAISO.
- Smart Thermostat Usability Study - 2015
- Smart Thermostat Pilot - Load Impact Evaluation
- Load Impact Calculator (SLIC) for Smart Grid Cross-Pilot Evaluation
- SmartPricing Options - Interim Evaluation
- SmartPricing Options - Final Evaluation
- 2012 Residential Precooling Study
We investigate bulk and distributed electrical, mechanical or thermal energy storage technologies. The program seeks to determine commercial readiness of emerging storage technologies, their applications, customer and utility benefits and costs, regulatory and environmental constraints or barriers and their mitigation and grid integration and operations impacts.
Recent projects and activities
- We conducted a demonstration of the ability of energy storage to perform peak load shifting at a Whole Foods grocery store location, and conducted benefits analysis to inform AB 2514 storage programs. Operational data revealed a longer payback period than expected and underutilization of the storage system nameplate when used only for arbitrage with minimal benefit to the grid. The study revealed business opportunities to provide a higher value storage solution for customers through our AB 2514 pilot programs.
- We initiated a strategic plan and program designs to meet 9 MW storage target established and committed to the CEC in response to AB 2514. The first two programs, Commitment to Operate Residential and Commercial programs, went live in 2018. The Residential Energy Storage Sizing Tool is now available on the website for customers to determine if energy storage is right for them. In addition, the tool can be used by the Strategic Account Advisors to run projected energy savings and program credits for customers.
We support electrification of the transportation sector to help improve air quality, reduce net greenhouse gas emissions and reduce petroleum consumption to support energy security and sustainability.
Recent projects and activities
- We partnered with the SMAQMD and 3 school districts to support the deployment of 29 electric school buses and matching charging stations with SMUD providing charging infrastructure support, as follows:
- Elk Grove Unified School District: 10 electric school buses and charging stations started operating in August 2018
- Twin Rivers Unified School District: 16 electric school buses and charging stations started operating in August 2018
- Sacramento City Unified School District expects to receive 3 electric school buses in Q4 of 2018 and has already installed 3 charging stations in preparation.
- EV Charging Strategies for Fleets and Workplaces is demonstrating EV charging technologies, such as rotational charging and power sharing, to reduce the installed cost of EV charging for fleets and workplaces to increase EV adoption in commercial settings. Phase one of this study allowed for an increase of 26 EVSE for SMUD fleet and employee workplace EVs from existing infrastructure. We are currently recruiting commercial customers to demonstrate the capabilities in various customer environments.
- We launched pilot program to provide an incentive to Uber EV drivers to increase EV zero emission rides to Uber customers in the Sacramento region. The program’s goal is to help increase EV adoption through the education and awareness of EVs, and incentivize the use of local shared mobility, reducing vehicles on the road.
This program seeks to improve grid reliability through reduced number, frequency and duration of outages, control of the distribution system, voltage and frequency variations and overload conditions. The program also optimizes the grid benefits of customer distributed energy resources (DER) through advancing integration standards and coordinated automation.
- We developed a flexible, open standards based price publishing application for use by multiple partner projects and pilots to test automated DER response to changing prices.
- We installed and evaluated 69kV advanced line sensors for improving reliability, helping enable faster fault location identification and faster outage restoration.
We move emerging energy efficiency technologies, including electrification, from lab and demonstration projects into active customer programs. The goal is to investigate new or underutilized technologies and to move proven products into customer programs. The research program covers both residential and commercial applications that convert gas or reduce electricity consumption.
Recent energy efficiency projects
- Through our research pilots working with cannabis growers to improve the efficiency of grow facilities, we’ve demonstrated that lighting upgrades reduce energy use by around 40% and HVAC upgrades can provide energy reduction of up to 50%. The results from these projects will provide useful information for establishing energy-efficiency incentives and help lessen the impacts on the grid.
- Circadian lighting projects started with looking at assisted care facilities, and extended to looking at energy savings and health benefits for children with Autism Spectrum disorder. Based upon the work we’ve done, the Department of Energy is leveraging our research in their national efforts on circadian lighting.
- To help provide customers additional control on our Time-of-Day Rate, we evaluated energy savings, peak load reduction, and customer bill savings from optimization of smart thermostats (optimization by Nest and WhiskerLabs) and heat pump water heaters (optimization by Virtual Peaker).
Recent electrification projects
To help inform our customers about how to reduce their carbon footprint, we commissioned lab tests comparing the performance of residential-grade induction, electric resistance and gas open burner range tops. Read the Induction Range Final Report.
Some other resources for electrification include:
- 2019 Cost-Effectiveness Study: Low-Rise Residential, SMUD Addendum
- Residential Building Electrification in California
- 2019 Mid-Rise Reach Code Analysis
- 2019 Nonresidential Cost-Effectiveness Study
- 2019 High-Rise Residential New Construction Cost-Effectiveness
- 2019 Accessory Dwelling Units New Construction Cost-Effectiveness
We work to support our renewable supply and sustainability goals while maintaining system reliability and security.
- We completed an assessment of the potential waste available in a select area as possible feedstock into an anaerobic digester system for electricity generation and pilot local organic waste food collection program.
- We completed an assessment and demonstration of the feasibility of a small modular biomass application at the Sacramento State campus.
- We completed an assessment of market-based incentive mechanisms for the expansion of sustainable biomass resources to energy in the SMUD service territory.
- We completed a wind resource assessment for SMUD territory to identify locations for both small and utility scale applications.
- We installed a permanent solar irradiance network in SMUD territory to monitor and collect data to forecast solar generation.
- Community Renewable Energy Deployment - Final Report
- High Penetration Photovoltaic Initiative
- Anatolia PV and Storage Demonstration – DOE Final Report
- Benefit Analysis of Energy Storage - Case Study
We support our renewable supply and sustainability goals while maintaining system reliability and security and providing customers choices for reducing energy costs with electricity generation on-site or close to the load center.
Recent projects and activities
- We developed the process to generate Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits from a diary digester system to an electric vehicle (EV) load pathway, awaiting approval from the California Air Resources Control Board.
- We completed an analysis with the National Fuel Cell Research Center on the cost of large stationary fuel cell system.
- We completed a feasibility study examining the deployment value of electric vehicle (EV) charging along with carport type parking lot photovoltaic (PV) generation.