The California Public Utilities Commission Nov. 8 unanimously approved spending $1.9 billion in ratepayer funds to cover the four investor-owned utilities’ 2013-14 energy efficiency programs. These two “transition” year budgets, in lieu of the traditional three-year funding cycle, are aimed at increasing long-term energy savings, primarily via building retrofits, and promoting new efficiency programs at the regional level. A fraction of the approved utility efficiency budgets includes funds to be passed through to approved regional governments in Southern California and the Bay Area that are tackling unfilled energy efficiency niches. Money also is to be funneled to the Marin community choice aggregator, Marin Energy Authority, for its upcoming two-year efficiency program. The decision represents a “new leaf in the collaborative process,” said Mark Ferron, the presiding commissioner on the decision authored by administrative law judge Julie Fitch. It prioritizes efficiency programs in Southern California to help address the supply gaps expected next summer with the continued outage of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Ferron noted. “This will create jobs,” pointed out CPUC member Tim Simon. Commission member Mike Florio said he hopes regulators move away from set efficiency funding cycles to ones that are “evergreen,” or ongoing, to provide funding certainty. Before tapping into the approved two-year efficiency budgets, the private utilities are required to allocate before the end of this year unspent funds from previous program cycles. Unspent utility efficiency dollars include $68 million in Pacific Gas & Electric’s program budget, $12 million for SCE, $50 million for SDG&E, and $46.7 million for Southern California Gas. Under this week’s approval, PG&E is to receive $823 million for its upcoming two-year efficiency cycle. That is down from a requested $893.8 million. Included in the amount is $4 million PG&E is to direct to the Marin Energy Authority, the state’s first community aggregator. Another $26 million from PG&E ratepayers is to go to the umbrella organization for efficiency programs run by San Francisco, the Association of Bay Area Governments, and several counties, including, Napa, Santa Clara, and Contra Costa, plus the city of Suisun. Southern California Edison’s efficiency budget is $694 million, down from the $786 million it sought. San Diego Gas & Electric’s two-year efficiency budget is $205 million, down from a requested $213 million. The 2013-14 efficiency budget for SoCal Gas is $178 million. SoCal Gas is to contract with Los Angeles County for $9 million to carry out the Southern California regional energy network efficiency programs. The two Southern and Northern California “regional energy centers” are public entities approved by the CPUC to carry out various energy efficiency programs not offered by the private utilities. The offerings include retrofits, contractor training, marketing outreach, low-income assistance, and other efficiency loans. The decision also does the following: -Bolsters work force training; -Expands on-bill financing programs; -Authorizes light-emitting diode incentives for high-end bulbs in advance of the California Energy Commission adoption of standards in this area; -Directs the private utilities to serve as the fiscal agents for contracts with regional energy networks and Marin Energy, but not control them; -Assumes utilities will meet or exceed their savings goals; -Seeks a lower cost per unit of energy saved; and -Sets program parameters, including cost-effectiveness and measurement criteria, for the regional energy centers and Marin. The efficiency budgets are to reap energy savings in PG&E territory of 277 GWh and 43 million therms. Edison is supposed to cut electricity use by 370 GWh. SDG&E is to save 84 GWh and 4 million therms. SoCal Gas is to cut 47 million therms.