public goods funds

Gov. Brown seeks to continue energy efficiency programs

Gov. Jerry Brown plans to roll out a bill to save a longtime energy efficiency program due to expire in two weeks, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Marc Lifsher of the Times writes that a draft of the bill — dubbed the Clean Energy, Jobs and Investment Act of 2011 — "was presented at a private meeting late last week in the governor's office with utility executives, legislative staffers, environmentalists and power plant developers."

Lifsher quotes Brown staffer Nancy McFadden as saying that the measure is a "priority for Gov. Brown because of its proven job-creation potential and role in galvanizing California's innovative clean-tech economy."

The energy efficiency program is paid for by a "public goods surcharge" of $1 to $2 on a residential ratepayer's utility bills. In 1996, AB 1890 directed the state’s three major investor-owned utilities -- Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric -- to collect the funds.

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved energy efficiency funding of $3.1 billion for 2010 through 2012 through the program, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Lifsher says the program collects about $400 million a year.

Lifsher says the program is opposed by business groups such as the California Manufacturers & Technology Association and antitax groups like the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Public goods funds pay for a series of energy efficiency programs, including:

  • The Savings by Design program, which is offered by PG&E, SCE, SDG&E, Southern California Gas and Sacramento Municipal Utility District. This program provides incentives for energy efficiency measures in new construction and major renovations.
  • The Statewide Customized Offering for Business, which is offered by PG&E, SCE and SDG&E. The utilities provide incentives for efficient lighting, air conditioning, refrigeration and natural gas equipment as well as for controls, building shell retrofits and demand reduction measures.
  • PG&E, SCE and SDG&E offer rebates for more efficient lighting, HVAC, water heaters, refrigeration, motors and other equipment.
Other services include energy audits, on-bill zero-interest financing of energy efficiency measures up to $250,000 and other programs.

Public goods funds also pay for local government partnerships that seek to aid jurisdictions in implementing energy savings measures in their communities to reduce energy use, greenhouse gas and utility costs.

For instance, SCE says it provides support to more than 100 cities and counties through its Energy Leader Partnership Program. The utility says partnership program helps local governments "identify and address energy efficiency opportunities in municipal facilities, take actions supporting the California Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan and increase community awareness and participation."

One of those partnerships is Valley Innovative Energy Watch, which includes Tulare County, Kings County, Visalia, Hanford, Woodlake, Lindsay, Tulare and Porterville. The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization serves as implementer for the partnership.

Other California partnerships include the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, the San Gabriel Valley partnership, the Chula Vista partnership and many others.