Launched with $1.5M in grant funding from the California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Program, the Energize Fresno team has been working to design a roadmap for Fresno to become an Advanced Energy Community.

Over the past year and a half, we have identified projects that deliver significant resource savings and attract more investment into the community, and developed a tool that streamlines the project-funding matching process to accelerate action and raise the visibility of energy, water, and transportation investment opportunities in the city. Once the planning phase of this grant is complete, we hope to fully implement the roadmap design to identify projects, funding, and a pathway for the city towards becoming an Advanced Energy Community, and share the roadmap design with communities across the state.

Click here for an overview of Energize Fresno.

Advanced Energy Community

The EPIC Challenge: Accelerating the Deployment of Advanced Energy Communities

In 2016, the California Energy Commission awarded 13 projects, including Energize Fresno, through the EPIC Challenge: Accelerating the Deployment of Advanced Energy Communities solicitation. The purpose of this solicitation was to fund a competition that would challenge project teams comprised of building developers, local governments, technology developers, researchers, utilities, and other project partners to spend 18 months developing innovative and replicable plans for accelerating the deployment of Advanced Energy Communities (AECs).

What is an Advanced Energy Community?

Communities are diverse and the path to becoming an Advanced Energy Community is complex – no one set of technologies or plan activities can move a community forward holistically. By putting forward a diverse portfolio of projects and programs that contribute to grid reliability and resiliency, increase energy efficiency and renewable energy, and deploy smart grid and zero net energy technologies, Energize Fresno wants to apply the following AEC principles in a real-world setting, where we can provide an integrated set of tools and processes for Fresno, and any other community, to produce more projects with higher value and work towards becoming an Advanced Energy Community.

The California Energy Commission defines an Advanced Energy Community with the following principles:

  • null

    Minimize new infrastructure

  • null

    Zero Net Energy Community status

  • null

    Support grid reliability and resiliency

  • null

    Easier integration and alignment with CPUC procurement

  • null

    Replicable and scalable

  • null

    Financially attractive

  • null

    Affordable access to renewable energy and energy efficiency

  • null

    Incorporate smart-grid technologies

  • null

    Align with other state energy and environmental policies

Project Area

The Energy Opportunity Zone

Energize Fresno created an “Energy Opportunity Zone” (EOZ), a geographic focus area in the City of Fresno, that aims to meet the needs of community members by concentrating project efforts at a neighborhood scale. The focus area is approximately five square miles and includes the Blackstone Avenue Corridor and Downtown Fresno, two priority redevelopment areas identified in the City of Fresno’s 2014 General Plan. Through the EOZ, Energize Fresno will promote infill, and aims to help Fresno achieve energy, monetary, and other resource savings in accordance with the California Energy Commission’s Advanced Energy Community principles.

Concentrating AEC project efforts within the EOZ provides a tangible and scalable pilot that addresses a wide range of community member needs. Packaging the planning efforts in this way allows the program to propose a range of clean energy deployment and management solutions, leverage the city’s existing planning infrastructure, connect the program with relevant stakeholder groups, and tie the program to market conditions as a basis to implement more sustainability-focused projects. The EOZ will thus serve as a replicable and scalable template with which communities across California can deploy advanced energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, localize the economic benefits of development, and provide improved safety and reliability for community members.

This project area includes the Energy Opportunity Zone and locations of the Energize Fresno portfolio projects, as shown by the pins and blue target areas.

Why Downtown Fresno and the Blackstone Corridor?

Many of the city’s regional planning initiatives strongly suggest focusing innovation and investment in clean energy and resource efficiency in the downtown area and along the Blackstone Corridor. In addition, the California High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) has established plans to build a station in downtown Fresno, making the downtown a major transit hub and future EcoDistrict. The Energize Fresno team thus established these two planning areas to be the EOZ project area, with the goal of increasing resource savings from new development and redevelopment projects, and aligning with long-term planning priorities.

By focusing on this defined project area, projects, programs, and initiatives are clustered, enabling Energize Fresno to take advantage of targeted outreach and technical assistance across highly varied neighborhoods and socioeconomic groups, thereby realizing a real-world application of the California Energy Commission’s AEC principles and the benefits of an AEC.

Technical Tasks

Integrated Community Resource Market

Currently, there is a lack of integrated approaches to help communities identify, select, and implement high-quality, cost-effective projects that meet the principles of an AEC and contribute to community prosperity. Energize Fresno designed a development platform, the Integrated Community Resource Market (ICRM), to provide this integrated approach. The platform aims to help the City of Fresno, and communities across the state, raise the visibility of energy, water, and transportation investment opportunities in their communities, and take the steps towards becoming an AEC.

The project team undertook the following technical tasks to develop the ICRM platform.

  • Project Pipeline

    Project Pipeline

    Energize Fresno has defined a Project Pipeline that utilizes Fresno’s existing policy and development plans, stakeholder input, and additional research, to compile a comprehensive list of projects that are financially viable, align with current policy goals and timelines, and, upon implementation, produce verifiable savings of energy, greenhouse gas, and water.

    A filtering mechanism was developed to help prioritize projects that focus on resource conservation while enhancing mixed-use development and the smart growth vision set by local policy. It also allowed the project team to define how the Energize Fresno platform can be scaled to other communities who also have similar long-term planning processes. Availability of the filters also allows the city to continue to add to the portfolio of projects over time.


  • Funding Platform
    Funding Platform

    To assess funding opportunities for portfolio projects, Energize Fresno developed a Funding Platform that includes a set of over 200 funding and financing products for AEC measures and sustainability projects.

    Using this platform, the Energize Fresno team analyzed each project to identify options for funding and financing of the AEC improvements, and carried out a financial analysis of each project to examine energy cost savings, incremental measure cost, return-on-investment in the form of payback with and without funding incentives, and property value improvement. The analysis focused on the use of market ready funding and finance products such that the Energize Fresno project development approach can be replicated and scaled-up to further drive down costs.


  • Toolkit

    Verification Toolkit

    A Verification Toolkit was developed that defines the best-in-class tools necessary to accurately verify, record, and report resources that can be saved by building out the Project Pipeline. The verification tools and methods identified can be used in conjunction with the Policy Map and Project Pipeline to define and report contributions from projects to state agencies or policies.


  • Master Community Design
    Master Community Design

    The Master Community Design is a result of a comprehensive planning process conducted over 18 months, June 2016 to November 2017, involving a wide range of community stakeholders and technical analysts. The Master Community Design combines the outputs and resources from the Energize Fresno Phase I planning grant process to inform and guide Fresno decision makers.

    In principle, the Master Community Design describes a suite of projects and specific processes that illustrate how Fresno can become the kind of AEC needed to confront economic and environmental challenges facing California. Such an outline is a critical resource for community leaders, planners, and stakeholders who are working to ensure Fresno’s prosperity and resiliency into the future.


  • Dissemination

    To make the platform replicable and scalable, the model, case study, documentation, and materials are being freely disseminated across the state, encouraging other communities to adopt the platform and developing more advanced energy communities.

Master Community Design

Master Community Design

The Master Community Design describes projects and processes for how Fresno might move towards becoming the kind of Advanced Energy Community (AEC) needed to confront the economic and environmental challenges facing California. Such an outline is a critical resource for community leaders, planners, and stakeholders who are working to take Fresno from where it is today to where it can be in the future.

The Master Community Design aims to respond to the city’s challenges of economic hardship and rising electricity demand while leveraging the city’s considerable momentum in reducing overall energy consumption and expanding its renewable energy infrastructure each year. It is intended to provide a community focused roadmap for mobilizing development of high performance buildings, improve the security of Fresno’s energy systems, and support reduced energy cost burdens for some of the most vulnerable populations in the state. Ultimately, the Master Community Design will serve as an enduring resource for stakeholders by providing a transparent description of the processes and tools used to identify, select, and analyze projects as well as funding to continue to optimize the value of future projects.

Energize Fresno Project Portfolio

The Master Community Design integrates the California Energy Commission’s principles of an AEC by putting forward a portfolio of projects and programs that contribute to grid reliability and resiliency, increase energy efficiency and renewable energy, and deploy smart grid and zero net energy technologies. Implementation of this portfolio involves commercial and residential projects across a range of building types and residential neighborhoods.

The portfolio of 13 development sites, two activity centers, two program enhancements, and two electric vehicle charging proposals is estimated to cost $30.8 million in capital expenditure and save participants $4.6 million annually net of financing costs, and generate approximately $1 million annually in positive cash flow. Capital expenditures apply towards the incremental costs associated with the sustainability measure analyzed as it allows the team to model financial performance of loans and funding towards the additional costs associated with sustainable design.

To present the final analysis results of the portfolio to project owners and developers, the Energize Fresno team developed a community level dashboard, or Power BI Dashboard, for the City of Fresno. The Power BI provides detailed analysis results and savings of each project by market sector, funding source, and resource type that is aggregated at the community level.

Total Capital Expenditure

$35.1 million

Total Annual Emissions Reduction

7,340 metric tons of CO2e*

*Equivalent to GHG emissions from over 1,570 conventional vehicles driven in one year

Total Annual Energy Cost Savings

$4.6 million

Total Annual Electricity Savings

& On-Site Generation

26.6 GWh*

*Equivalent to over 2,900 homes’ electricity use for one year

Project Portfolio Design

  • Development Sites

    The portfolio includes 13 individual buildings in the mid to large commercial sector across downtown Fresno and the Blackstone Corridor.

    • Technologies: These buildings will incorporate energy efficiency designs that exceed current Title 24 standards, as well as the maximum distributed generation capacity potential for each site, and provide demand management capability that is grid interactive.
    • Estimated Cost: $7.4 million
    • Phase II Grant Contribution: $3.3 million
    • Anticipated Energy Cost Savings: $1.6 million per year
    • Anticipated GHG Emissions Reduction: 1,395 metric tons CO2e per year


  • Activity Centers

    The portfolio contains two activity centers: City of Fresno municipal operations and Fresno City College. These centers are major hubs of public, commercial or social activity that offer the opportunity to develop and demonstrate large scale resource savings projects in ways that can engage and influence large numbers of community stakeholders.

    • Technologies: Activity centers will also focus on energy efficiency and distributed generation resources, including grid interactive management capability.
    • Estimated Cost: $17.7 million
    • Phase II Grant Contribution: $2.8 million
    • Anticipated Energy Cost Savings: $2.2 million per year
    • Anticipated GHG Emissions Reduction: 3,391 metric tons CO2e per year
  • Program Enhancements

    Enhancement proposals for two existing programs – Home Energy Tune-Up and Business Energy Tune-Up – that already operate in Fresno. Through Energize Fresno, both programs will expand services within the EOZ, serving particular neighborhoods and targeting underserved community members.

    • Technologies: Both programs will offer an online/mobile energy management app to help customers better manage their energy costs and generate behavioral savings. The residential program enhancement will additionally offer direct install smart thermostats and direct install weatherization for qualified customers.
    • Estimated Cost: $3.5 million
    • Phase II Grant Contribution: $3.5 million
    • Anticipated Energy Cost Savings: $845,900 per year
    • Anticipated GHG Emissions Reduction: 2,234 metric tons CO2e per year
  • Electrification of Transportation

    The portfolio also includes two transportation measures* intended to support the electrification of cars and light trucks in Fresno through the deployment of public charging stations that will be fast, reliable, and convenient for current and future electric vehicle drivers.

    • Technologies: Energize Fresno proposes the deployment of twenty direct current fast chargers (DCFCs) across downtown Fresno and five autonomous, solar-powered chargers along the Blackstone Corridor, from Ashlan Ave. south to downtown.
    • Estimated Cost: $2.2 million
    • Phase II Grant Contribution: $2.2 million
    • Anticipated GHG Emissions Reduction: 320 metric tons of CO2e per year

    *These measures are considered to be market transformation initiatives and thus were not analyzed from a cost effectiveness perspective

Next Steps

The EPIC Challenge: Phase II

At the close of the EPIC Challenge planning phase, Energize Fresno will apply for an additional $14 million in grant funding from the California Energy Commission to implement the Master Community Design (click the “Master Community Design” tab to learn more) and take the first steps toward creating a thriving district that models resource-efficient living and working in the City of Fresno. We invite you to share in this vision for a more resilient and prosperous future for Fresno.

The Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Program

The EPIC Program was created by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in December 2011 to support investments in clean energy technologies that provide benefits to the electricity ratepayers of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), and Southern California Edison Company (SCE). The EPIC program funds clean energy research, demonstration and deployment projects that support California’s energy policy goals and promote greater electricity reliability, lower costs, and increased safety.