Pau Lau, the new General Manager and CEO of SMUD appointed early this year, said that further innovations were a key to meeting 10% of the requirements to reach a zero-carbon power system by the end of the decade. Known technologies and applications would be enough to get 90% of the way there, but the rest depends on people creating new options no one has yet imagined. SMUD intends to spend the money to unlock this creativity, hopefully much of it close to home. This was welcome news to the sizable crowd that joined this special Perspectives Zoominar on Monday July 12. 

SMUD’s plan is very ambitious. It includes supporting “climate-friendly business growth” and “leaving no community behind”, all while capping rate increases at the inflation rate. Lau could not have been clearer about wanting to hear more ideas from the cleantech community. He pledged to sponsor meetings where the community could brief SMUD staff on the solutions they could offer to meet the 2030 goal. SMUD has always been a supporter of sustainability and clean energy, but this was a big step beyond anything SMUD has ever done before. Being open to more innovative ideas and offering support to early stage companies was a welcome message. The biggest innovations are needed in buildings and transportation. 

Lau said he wanted to lead the charge to bring as much of the money for clean infrastructure, EV charging, and renewables promised in the President’s budget to our region as possible. He wants to make the region a clear clean tech leader and test bed for as many good ideas as possible. He talked about shutting down all SMUD’s gas-fired power plants except the Cosumnes plant which will be repurposed for meeting peak needs, hopefully using green fuels. He wants to see at least 100 MW of grid-scale storage (and we would urge him to target more). He is a fan of vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-home applications to use the growing EV fleet to become part of the storage solution, a sector where engineering innovation will be key to working out the problems with rearranging the grid to accommodate such changes. 

There was so much that he discussed, it can’t possibly be described in this summary. It is all recorded and available on our YouTube channel. If you didn’t attend, you really need to watch this. And if you were there, tell your cleantech friends that they need to tune in as well.

Thomas Hall


Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart’s Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

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