The state is missing a dime or more of every energy efficiency dollar acquired from utility customers, according to data revealed June 6 in a Senate Energy Utilities & Communications Committee hearing. Are billions of ratepayer dollars dedicated to investor-owned utility efficiency gains \u201cindeed leading to power plants not having to be built?\u201d asked Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) committee chair. According to a study by The Utility Reform Network presented to the panel, for every dollar utilities spent on energy savings they reaped between $1.15 and $1.17 in avoided energy early last decade. However in the current triennial program cycle, for every dollar spent on utility energy efficiency programs only $0.89- $0.92 cents in savings are achieved. Lara Ettenson, Natural Resources Defense Council California director of energy efficiency, countered that efficiency programs have saved $5 billion, helping to \u201creinvigorate the economy.\u201d Pacific Gas & Electric disputed TURN\u2019s findings. \u201cPG&E has reported results from 2010 program activities that for every dollar spent on energy efficiency programs, society has reaped $1.51 in benefits,\u201d Katie Romans, utility spokesperson, wrote in an email. Consumer, environmental, and energy efficiency representatives agreed on furthering the state\u2019s energy efficiency program, but disagreed on the way forward. Mark Toney, TURN executive director, warned that not only are efficiency program costs rising, but the California Public Utilities Commission has lowered the bar on when utilities can reap shareholder bonuses. About five years ago, regulators moved away from requiring utilities to meet specific efficiency goals to offering economic carrots to install energy efficiency measures. When utilities meet and exceed certain goals, their shareholders are rewarded. Currently, if investor-owned utilities reach 65 percent of energy savings goals their shareholders are awarded. Also at issue at this week\u2019s hearing was whether the controversial energy efficiency programs should continue to be administered by Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric. The legitimacy of the metric used by utilities to measure energy savings from their $1 billion a year efficiency program also was debated. Toney called for allowing independent third parties to administer the private utility efficiency programs. \u201cWith a third party administrator, there is a single goal of energy reduction. It doesn\u2019t have a conflict of interest,\u201d Toney told the committee. NRDC\u2019s Ettenson disagreed, insisting the program administration should not change. How to measure the amount of saved power attributed to the $3 billion spent over three years is a long-contested matter. Toney called for a \u201csimple metric,\u201d that measures the previous year\u2019s use with current actual use, in place of a \u201csmoke and mirrors game involving a hypothetic of what would have been used.\u201d Padilla said lawmakers would not go back on their energy efficiency commitment, but want to do so in a way that is more strategic.