In the mid-1970s, I read the book, Diet for a Small Planet. That was back when \u201cecology\u201d was an emerging science. The groundbreaking book revealed the impact of our culinary choices by connecting the dots in the food chain. When I read California Public Utilities Commission member Dian Grueneich\u2019s proposal pushing the envelope on energy efficiency this week I thought that by connecting the dots in the energy chain it could lead to major reductions in our carbon footprint. While the CPUC may take the lead in developing a new energy story with this proposed decision, its impact will be strengthened or weakened by its interactions with the other key state energy agency. The California Energy Commission also is working to ensure meaningful and long-term ecologic energy use in our carbon-constrained world. Pursuant to legislative mandates, the CEC plans to raise the efficiency bar to a new high for both private and public utilities over the next decade. Just how high to aim to curb energy consumption and its resultant greenhouse gas impact was the subject of much debate September 17. If the commissions work together to meld their plans they will create a Diet for a Small Planet for the energy world, changing the way we use and think about energy akin to how the book motivated a generation to forego inefficient sources of food production. (The 1971 book promotes responsible use of the earth\u2019s resources by detailing how to meet nutritional needs sans meat. It is responsible for converting countless young Americans, including my coeditor, to vegetarianism. For this generation\u2019s seminal book, check out Michael Pollan\u2019s Omnivore\u2019s Dilemma. There\u2019s a lot to be learned not only about our food\u2019s connection, but ethanol too.) Gruenich\u2019s energy reduction plan strives to make \u201cenergy efficiency a way of life.\u201d She lays some groundwork for the proposed \u201cbig, bold energy strategies for energy efficiency\u201d for the next decade announced in late spring (Circuit, May 18, 2007). She specifically would require Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric to jointly develop a long-term statewide efficiency menu to achieve desired consumption reductions. In addition, 2020 efficiency goals would replace the three-year utility efficiency targets. \u201cOur current approach is too narrow to recognize adequately the complexities and evolving nature of the marketplace for energy efficiency products, service and investments,\u201d Grueneich wrote. The CPUC proposal calls for big boosts in new residential and commercial building efficiencies. It urges the utilities to use their clout and push for tighter building efficiency codes at the state and local levels \u201cat the earliest possible stages.\u201d Although regulators don\u2019t have authority over the building industry, this stance draws attention to the area that will significantly affect our future--both energy and climate change-wise. A big source of added electricity consumption in the state will come from new houses. By 2020, new homes should exceed current building efficiency standards, known as Title 24, by 35 percent, which is estimated to save 500 MW and 150 million therms of natural gas. The CPUC proposal aims to prod developers to build far more efficient office buildings to save up to 950 MW by 2030. Make no doubt about it. This will be expensive, particularly the next few years. CPUC president Mike Peevey is particularly straight shooting about that. However, the implications of not taking meaningful action could end up costing us a lot more--economically, environmentally, and in the 1970s fashion of \u201cecology.\u201d Also this week, the CPUC\u2019s sister agency in Sacramento grappled with setting an optimum 10-year energy efficiency target for private and public utilities. During an all-day September 17 CEC workshop, stakeholders debated what energy savings level was realistic and cost effective. Also at issue was the role emerging efficiency technologies should play in utility long-term energy savings strategies. Two savings targets were pitched by the Energy Commission staff--one seeking 80 percent of what is considered cost-effective or \u201ceconomically achievable,\u201d and an alternative setting a 50 percent goal over the next decade. Cost effective means the benefits of a given technology outweigh its cost. It is a test traditionally applied by the Energy Commission in the efficiency arena. Economically achievable does not include emerging efficiency technologies, such as developing LED (light emitting diode) applications for lighting. That is because Energy Commission staff cannot reliably predict when a promising device may become commercially viable. The 80 percent target is aimed at offsetting growing demand, particularly at peak times. This is both for municipal and private utilities. The goal would produce an estimated 6,569 nega-megwatts--(n)MW--and reduce natural gas use by 749 million therms. By the end of this decade, the CEC estimated investor-owned utilities will achieve 71 percent of the efficiency targets, with munis reaching 56 percent when applying cost-effective strategies. The 80 percent level is a stretch goal aimed at giving investor-owned utilities the \u201cincentive to continue ramping up their program savings,\u201d according to the CEC draft report. It also is geared towards motivating munis, which have a mixed record on efficiency, to expanding their \u201ceffort to achieve a higher fraction of the economic potential over time.\u201d CEC staffers, however, are not united on how strict the ecological diet should be. \u201cA solid foundation with a real goal that can be reached over 10 years is preferable to a continued boom-and-bust annual pattern for investor-owned utilities and munis,\u201d said CEC energy efficiency program planner and manager Mike Messenger, during a commission Integrated Energy Policy Report meeting on how to implement AB 2021--the energy efficiency legislation passed last year. He pointed out it would be self defeating for some munis to set their savings goal too high in the early years because they would be unable to sustain that momentum over the life of their efficiency programs. Messenger based his recommendations on his analysis of investor-owned utilities\u2019 energy efficiency programs from 1996-2006. Messenger\u2019s message did not sit well with CEC member John Geesman. At Monday\u2019s workshop, Geesman objected to not pushing munis to lighten their energy load, especially given that some agencies--like the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Silicon Valley Power--have reaped considerable reductions from their strict efficiency diets. In addition, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and others vowed to adhere to a new energy efficient regime. \u201cWhere do we get off on saying \u2018you\u2019re going to fast\u2019?\u201d Geesman asked. He also raised legal concerns about lowering the goal given the mandates of the controlling legislation. AB 2021 requires that by November 1, the CEC--in consultation with the CPUC and publicly owned electric utilities--develop a statewide estimate of achievable cost-effective electricity and natural gas efficiency savings. Diet for a Small Planet provides valuable lessons for getting beyond our current harmful energy resource paradigm. The seminal book changed the lives of many in my generation, spelling out how our actions and consumption patterns impact the earth. I hope our energy regulators and policy makers can do the same with the generations to come.