Energy efficiency programs got a shot in the arm today with an open letter to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) calling on California’s utility companies to “aim higher in their efforts to help customers save energy.” Utility companies have made impressive gains with energy efficiency programs, that acted to reduce customers bills, energy costs, and reduce air pollution, but the NRDC notes that the efforts appear to be slowing.
California’s publicly owned utilities (POU’s) provide about 25% of the state’s electricity and serve over 3 million customers. The energy efficiency measures so far resulted in saving over 550 megawatts of power, which prevented the construction of another power plant, reducing customer bills by over $1 billion and avoided 1.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
Governor Schwarzenegger’s executive order on climate change (Executive Order S-3-05) from a few years ago requires that, by 2050, California’s greenhouse gas emissions be 80% below 1990 levels. The NRDC notes that to get on track with that goal, all utility companies must dramatically ramp up efficiency programs. Unfortunately many of the POU’s are going the other direction, downplaying energy efficiency programs. Factors behind the trend include economic conditions, and waning investment levels. Only four of the POU’s are aiming for aggressive energy efficiency programs.
The NRDC offers these recommendations:
- Setting higher energy saving targets to help California meet its long-term greenhouse gas reduction goals;
- Increasing investments in energy efficiency programs to ramp up energy savings;
- Engaging in more statewide collaboration and efforts to help customers with more comprehensive efficiency upgrades; and
- Helping establish a statewide collaborative forum to build confidence in efficiency savings estimates through a transparent process.
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