California energy regulators expect investor-owned utilities to spend more money to expand the reaches of their low income energy efficiency programs beginning next year. Low income energy efficiency programs are getting “higher priority,” California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge Kim Malcolm told the Low Income Oversight Board meeting January 23. The commission expects utilities to outline “increased low income energy efficiency budgets” to ensure that all economic measures are installed on low income customer premises by 2020. More than 5.5 million California households qualify for low income energy assistance, according to the CPUC. However, many have not taken advantage of incentives from utilities for energy efficient appliances, home weatherization, and more efficient lighting. This goal was outlined in a CPUC decision December 20, 2007. It called for utilities beginning in 2009 to integrate low income energy efficiency programs with their general energy efficiency programs. Consequently, the low income plans are due to the CPUC on May 15, the same day utilities are to file their general energy efficiency plans for 2009-2011. “We needed to roll them together,” said CPUC commissioner Dian Grueneich. Malcolm stressed that combining the two energy efficiency programs should allow utilities to achieve “economies of scale” that will enable low income residents to benefit more than in the past. However, members of the board emphasized that low income customers cannot benefit unless they know about energy efficiency program incentives. They urged more emphasis on outreach and a greater effort to include low income customers in designing the upcoming utility plans. To that end, a series of meetings is being planned over the next two months to seek public input.