Muni Efficiency Gains on Par with IOUs

By Published On: June 12, 2009

Public power agencies reported energy savings have risen 135 percent since 2006, according to the California Energy Commission. Their energy efficiency expenditures have increased overall by 90 percent. “We’ve seen substantial growth in energy efficiency and are very proud of the cost- effectiveness of their programs,” said CEC member Jeffrey Byron during a June 8 hearing on muni efficiency programs. The current economic downturn, however, is expected to slow investments in efficiency, according to the commission staff and muni representatives. “Things are going in the right direction, but there is reason for concern,” said Kae Lewis, of the Energy Commission Demand Analysis Office’s Electricity Analysis Division. Much of the energy savings were attributable to efficiency gains reaped by the large munis. For example, in 2008, 29 percent of MWh savings were from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, with an equal amount from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. In 2007, SMUD exceeded its saving goals by 30 percent. LADWP almost doubled its savings, but still fell short of the target, according to Lewis. To date, public power energy savings are about on par with the investor-owned utilities’ statutory savings targets--reaching between 65-75 percent of their AB 2021 goals, said Lewis. AB 2021, a law enacted in 2006, seeks to increase statewide efficiency by 10 percent over a decade to reach of 30,000 GWh of energy savings from public and private utilities. Many munis fell short of the mark in the area of demand response, which is curbing power use upon request to reduce soaring demand on hot days. But some large agencies were able to shave their peak demand, including LADWP, SMUD, and the Imperial Irrigation District. The energy efficiency programs of the various sized and shaped munis depend on their customer bases. “You have to think differently with large and small customers,” said Scott Tomashefsky, representing Northern California Power Agency. Many of the agencies, like the private utilities, rely on swapping out of old lights with compact fluorescents and other bulbs considered more efficient. Tomashefsky called those savings the “low hanging fruit,” and acknowledged that efficiency gains from the bulbs would top out. The large public power agencies’ energy efficiency spending amounts to about 1.5 percent of their annual revenues, although spending by SMUD and Silicon Valley Power is in the 2.5 percent range. The investor-owned utilities spend more than double the muni average, with Southern California Edison spending 4.5 percent of its annual revenue and Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric spending in the 3.5 percent range. Most of the large muni efficiency programs, however, are more cost-effective than their private counterparts, according to the CEC. The munis generally got kudos, not only for cost-effective efficiency portfolios, but also for pursuing independent measurement and verification of their efficiency programs, which are seen as the crux of successful energy savings measures. Commission staff hopes to review the muni efficiency plans more thoroughly and seek additional information to allow it to take a more in-depth look, said Lewis.

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