Utility Energy Efficiency Role Questioned

By Published On: June 5, 2009

As the California Public Utilities Commission inches toward final action on massive 2009-11 energy efficiency plans, pressure mounts to allow third parties to play a bigger role. Cities, some environmental groups, and ratepayer advocates agree that non-utility organizations could administer plans more efficiently than utilities. The regulated utility plans outline $3 billion for energy efficiency, although critics say more than 20 percent of the money could accrue to the companies themselves. “There is definitely a theme here,” David Gamson, CPUC administrative law judge, said after listening to some of the skeptical testimony at a June 1 public hearing on the utility-proposed plans in Culver City. The current partnerships between utilities and local governments are “too rigid” to allow cities to maximize energy efficiency, said Susan Munves, city of Santa Monica energy and green building administrator. She argued cities should have a larger role in helping utilities shape energy efficiency programs within their respective jurisdictions. She further said that the programs should allow cities to coordinate energy efficiency money with other money, including weatherization funds, California Solar Initiative money, and low income assistance funding. Doing so would allow cities to “move on a building by building basis,” she said, and begin to achieve the state’s goal of zero net energy buildings. Utility representatives at the meeting did not testify.

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