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Article Source: Utility Dive (Utility and Energy Transmission & Distribution News)

Article Link: https://www.utilitydive.com/news/california-puc-energy-efficiency-funding-rural/654390/

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Granite Construction

Dive Brief:

  • California regulators on Thursday approved $4.3 billion in investments for energy efficiency efforts from 2024 through 2027, along with a forecasted budget of $4.6 billion from 2028 through 2031.
  • Around 14% of the budget will be channeled to programs that target disadvantaged and underserved communities, “helping to ensure equitable access to energy efficiency programs for all Californians served by [California Public Utilities Commission]-regulated entities,” the agency said in a statement.
  • Energy efficiency has been a core part of California’s strategy to meet its climate goals as well as reduce the amount of energy it needs to serve its load, CPUC Commissioner Karen Douglas said at the agency’s Thursday meeting. “It’s one of many strategies that we’ve relied on over time and one of our bedrock approaches,” she added.

Dive Insight:

Multiple commissioners at the Thursday meeting noted that the decision represents a significant investment in energy efficiency, which has been a critical component to meeting the state’s climate goals.

“Statewide investments in energy efficiency are a powerful economic stimulus and greenhouse gas reduction driver,” CPUC Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma said.

Previous energy efficiency portfolios adopted by the commission have provided for three segments, Shiroma said: resource acquisition, focused on system impacts from energy and capacity savings as well as greenhouse gas emission reductions; market support, focused on long-term support of the energy efficiency market and technologies; and equity, focused on ensuring better access and increased opportunities for underserved customers.

This decision adds a fourth segment on codes and standards aimed at improving energy efficiency of buildings and products across the state.

The investments approved by the CPUC will go into a host of energy efficiency-related measures that will also help improve energy reliability in the state, according to the agency. These include expanding current programs so that consumers can receive energy efficiency along with other home energy benefits – including electrification and energy storage – at the same time, the agency noted.

California’s energy efficiency portfolio is administered by a host of entities, including the state’s four investor-owned utilities – Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Co. – one community choice aggregator, Marin Clean Energy, and five regional energy networks, which are entities authorized to administer energy efficiency programs.

The CPUC’s decision also approved a new regional energy network called ‘Rural REN,’ aimed at providing energy efficiency services to underserved communities in rural areas in Central and Northern California. This network will cover many regions that have the state’s lowest participation rates in energy efficiency programs, and have received fewer economic benefits from them compared to urban areas, the decision noted.

PG&E is excited to be part of this investment in energy efficiency programs “and we look forward to collaborating with regulators, stakeholders and the energy efficiency community to implement this important policy,” the utility said in an email.

PG&E offers a range of services to support energy efficiency and in 2022, its energy efficiency portfolio helped customers save 1,782 GWh and 43 million therms of energy, the utility added. In addition, it helped California avoid emissions of more than 677,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, equal to the emissions from powering 130,000 homes for a year.