Bay Area Council Blog: 21st Century Infrastructure Archive


Getting More Renewable Energy into the State Grid

The Bay Area Council on Thursday (Sept. 11, 2014) was pleased to host California Public Utilities Commissioner Carla Peterman in conversation with Recurrent Energy CEO Arno Harris about the challenges of incorporating a greater proportion of renewable energy into the state’s power grid. The discussion was hosted by the Council’s 21st Century Infrastructure Task Force, which is co-chaired by Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corp., and Ken McNeely, AT&T California President.

One of the main hurdles Peterman and Harris discussed is the intermittency of renewable energy supplies, particularly during peak demand times. They also talked about the blurring of lines between energy generators and consumers. Possible solutions include developing new energy storage capabilities and real-time demand response. Peterman likened the problem to changing a car engine while the car is racing down the freeway. The two emphasized the importance of effective communications networks for enabling real-time information needed to manage supply and demand.

Watch the full discussion with CPUC Commissioner Carla Peterman and Recurrent Energy CEO Arno Harris.

To engage in the Council’s 21st Century Energy and Communications Infrastructure Initiative, contact Policy Vice President Michael Cunningham.


Disappointed, Not Surprised by Gigafactory Decision

The Bay Area Council responds to news reports today that Tesla has chosen Reno, Nevada, to build its battery Gigafactory:

“While we were hoping for California to come out on top, we knew Tesla would make its decision based on factors that contribute to the success of the company,” said Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We continue to believe California can be the central place for Tesla’s growth and think there will be many future opportunities to see that happen.   Specifically, with this decision we recognize the prospects for the development of a robust supply chain between Reno and Tesla’s manufacturing plant in Fremont which can support businesses old and new along that corridor, which includes the Sacramento and San Joaquin regions.

“We appreciate the hard work by Governor Brown’s office to make California a contender, and we will continue to work with the Governor to pursue future opportunities that leverage the state’s many competitive advantages for growing jobs. This can serve as a good learning opportunity for California. We should look very closely at what factors ultimately led to Tesla choosing Reno, and we should determine what we can do better going forward to attract and retain middle class jobs in California.”


21st Century Infrastructure Coming to Cupertino

Residents and businesses in Cupertino in the heart of Silicon Valley will be among the first in California – and among the first in the nation — to receive AT&T’s new ultra-fast GigaPower Internet broadband service, an example of the kind of digital upgrade the Bay Area Council is promoting as part of its 21st Century Infrastructure Initiative. AT&T California President Ken McNeely made the announcement this week with Cupertino Mayor Gilbert Wong, who said “Cupertino is leading the way in creating an environment that fosters innovation, and the deployment of ultra-high-speed broadband service will further support innovation in our community, spur our local businesses, and result in even greater economic development in our city.” The GigaPower service promises speeds of 1 gigabyte/second, fast enough to download 25 songs in one second or an HD online movie in less than 36 seconds.

McNeely is co-chairing the Council’s 21st Century Initiative, which is also focused on modernizing our energy infrastructure, along with PG&E CEO Tony Earley. A major component of the effort is identifying the public policies that will be necessary to encourage the private sector to invest in the new technologies that will benefit consumers, business and the economy. Many current policies are based on outdated technologies and create barriers for new investment. The Council is working to build understanding among government and elected officials about the importance of bringing public policy in line with technology. A report due out this fall by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute will explore this topic in detail. To engage in the Council’s 21st Century Infrastructure Initiative, contact Vice President Michael Cunningham.



The Bay Area Council has been advocating over the past several months for California to step up its game in competing for Tesla’s proposed Gigafactory, and recently led a group of state legislators on a tour of the electric car maker’s Fremont manufacturing plant. In the following opinion piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 18, Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman explains why California must win this competition.

All major indicators show that California has emerged from the worst recession in living memory, when home values plunged, unemployment rocketed, and, on a couple of very embarrassing occasions, the State of California was forced to pay its bills with IOUs.  Driven by a boom in technology, primarily in the Bay Area and international trade in Los Angeles, all seems well again in the Golden State.  But it’s not.  The recovery is uneven, with painful pockets of very high unemployment and a shocking dwindling of middle class jobs.  According to 2014 Bureau of Labor statistics, seven of the top ten unemployment black spots in the nation are here in booming California.  Communities up and down the Central Valley like Merced, Stockton and Fresno still struggle with double digit unemployment.

So the very highly skilled and highly paying jobs are back, but the well-paying middle class jobs in manufacturing, agriculture and construction, that don’t require advanced degrees, are scarce.  Something must be done to help these communities, but what?

You may have heard of the car maker Tesla. Tesla is a California company, born in our unique innovation economy and is a standout California success story. The company is in advanced planning to build a “Giga factory” somewhere in the western United States. This huge plant will manufacture the next generation of batteries that will power, not just the cars of the future, but our homes and office buildings too. This once-in-a-generation venture will require a $4 billion investment by Tesla and will initially create 6,500 full time jobs followed by tens of thousands more in support and service industries, such as construction and retail.

Tesla’s mission is to “accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.” To complete that noble goal, Tesla must get this plant up as quickly and for the least cost possible, and indeed, the plan is to be open and operational, making batteries and printing pay checks, in just over two years!

As you can imagine there is intense competition in the U.S. to attract Tesla’s attention.  Other states are offering huge financial incentives, land, and a fast tracked permitting process.  We too must use every tool available to us to compete for these jobs. California’s entrepreneurs and engineers created Tesla and we are the number one market for Tesla cars.  California is a world leader in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and ground breaking climate change legislation and it is clear that Tesla shares our values.  There is no reason other than a lack of will or imagination for this factory to locate anywhere but California.

There are several proposed sites in the central valley that reportedly meet Tesla’s needs from a logistics perspective.  Should Tesla select one of those, it is projected that a cluster of battery technology companies will soon follow, accompanied by a chain of logistics and supply companies along the I-5 corridor from Redding to San Diego creating tens of thousands of good paying middle class manufacturing jobs.  This factory will be a win for the whole state. It will kick start a new growth industry for the State and make us the world’s leader in battery technology and manufacturing.

With balanced and on-time budgets, a new water bond, and a strengthened commitment to clean energy, California is proving to the world that we are back, stronger than ever and ready for the future.  Losing the Tesla Giga plant would be a huge blow to our image, and a huge loss for our economy, particularly the middle class and the Central Valley.  Nevada, Arizona and Texas will push hard and a final decision is expected from Tesla in the very near future.  We urge Tesla to build this plant in their home state and we urge the Legislature and the Governor to step out of their comfort zones to make this happen in California.  This one’s worth the fight.


Bay Area Council Convenes Legislators for Tesla Factory Tour

The Bay Area Council’s 21st Century Infrastructure Task Force today (Aug. 8) convened a group of state legislators and California Energy Commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller for an exclusive tour of the Tesla Motors factory. Located in Fremont, the 5.5 million-square-foot plant employs over 4,000 workers, supports many other jobs in surrounding communities and produces what is arguably one of the most technically advanced automobiles in the world. The tour was conducted to highlight the importance of building 21st century energy infrastructure to support the growth of innovative clean technology companies like Tesla.

Of course, no tour of Tesla would be complete without some discussion of where the company plans to locate its proposed gigafactory and California’s chances for landing the coveted facility. This $5 billion factory is expected to create at least 6,500 direct jobs and thousands of indirect jobs. California is competing with several other states to house the battery factory. The discussion centered on California regulatory hurdles that would make it difficult for Tesla to find the right location and meets its aggressive timeline for constructing the new battery plant. Since this past spring, the Council has been advocating for Legislative leaders and the Governor’s office to put California in the game in competing for the Tesla plant.

The legislators who joined the tour included: Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto),  Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), Senator William “Bill” Monning (D-Carmel),  Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), Assemblyman Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park); Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), and Assemblyman Kevin Mullen (D-Daly City).

The Bay Area Council’s 21st Century Infrastructure Initiative Task Force is led by Co-Chairs Tony Earley Jr., Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corp., and Ken McNeely, President, AT&T California. To engage in the Bay Area Council’s work in establishing a 21st Century Infrastructure, contact Michael Cunningham and to engage in state government relations contact Cornelious Burke.



Bay Area Council Poll: Resounding Support for Upgrading Key Communications, Energy Networks

As more and more people come to rely heavily on mobile and broadband technologies for a wide range of everyday needs – from banking to healthcare — an overwhelming number of Bay Area residents want to be sure the critical infrastructure needed to support these services are in place, according to the 2014 Bay Area Council Poll. Residents by a 76 percent margin support allowing communications companies to expand and upgrade the antennae, towers and fiber-optic cables they use to deliver mobile and broadband services.

For complete results, visit 2014 Bay Area Council Poll.

Residents also agree there is no less urgency for modernizing our outdated energy networks, particularly as climate change, drought and the emergence of new technology-driven products and services are dramatically altering how we generate, deliver and consume energy. The poll found 74 percent of residents think the Bay Area must modernize its energy systems to keep the economy growing. And a resounding 78 percent of residents prioritize making these investments now.

“The Bay Area is the world’s innovation leader and residents understand we need modern communications and energy networks to sustain that dominance,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Unless we prioritize bringing our communications and energy networks into the 21st Century, we risk losing a generation of economic and technological advancement and ceding our innovation-leading position to our competitors.”

The findings come at a time when new technology companies are scrambling for position in the heated mobile marketplace, and when big data and the almost-viral spread of digital products and services into every part of people’s lives requires faster, bigger and more reliable communications networks. The results also come as state and federal officials are increasingly focused on developing the broader policies that are necessary to allow and encourage the private sector to invest in upgrades.

Bay Area residents appear to understand what is at stake, with a resounding 74 percent saying it’s time to drop opposition to upgrading and modernizing communications systems to ensure faster mobile and Internet services. That makes sense considering 66 percent of residents said they rely on a smartphone daily for a variety of tasks, 42 percent say they don’t even use a landline and 20 percent of those that do have a landline today say they won’t have one within five years.

And while 40 percent of residents harbor concerns about health impacts from cell phone antennas, a strong majority of 58 percent say local governments shouldn’t let those objections block the approval of new equipment.

Innovative pricing methods for energy consumption drew significant support among residents. The poll found 62 percent of residents across the region support peak-hour pricing to help reduce demand, and 70 percent said they would sign up for variable pricing to reduce their own energy bills by shifting energy-intensive activities to different times of the day.

The 2014 Bay Area Council Poll, which was conducted by Oakland-based public opinion research firm EMC Research, surveyed more than 1,000 residents in an online poll about a range of issues related to economic growth, housing and transportation, early childhood education, energy and communications, and healthcare. The results are being released over five days beginning May 27.



As the Bay Area Council prepares for its May 19 advocacy trip to D.C. that will focus in large part on cyber security and related issues, the Obama Administration yesterday released a report of a special Big Data and Privacy Working Group convened by the President in January to examine the implications of proliferating Internet traffic and use of information.

The report – Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values — attempts to bring together perspectives from privacy advocates, technologists, consumers and many other stakeholder groups. Among many issues touched upon, the Working Group aimed to maintain a clear view of the private enterprise building around uses of Big Data, from improving understanding of healthcare treatment decisions to applications in public sector infrastructure and the smart grid.

The report comes against a backdrop of competing visions of national data breach legislation, including a draft bill announced this week by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Saxby Chambliss to clarify the rules of the road for information sharing, especially with regard to industry concerns over liability. Many business groups, including the Bay Area Council, would agree that a national data breach standard would simplify a complex regulatory matrix.

The Council’s planned meetings in D.C. include visits with the Obama Administration and several authors of related bills in Congress (and their staff), where Council members will have an opportunity to express their views, concerns and goals for certainty in the potential new rules surrounding data security.

To engage in the Council’s cybersecurity initiative, contact Senior Advisor Matt Gardner. To participate in the Council’s D.C. advocacy trip from May 19-21, contact Policy Associate Brianne Riley.