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Green Building News

California’s Utility Regulator Gets Tenaciously Green

The state’s public utilities commissioners vote to commit $3.1 billion to energy efficiency programs through 2012

Image Credit: California Public Utilities Commission

As big and difficult to govern as it is, California still finds ways to remain at the forefront of energy efficiency initiatives. In September 2008, its utility regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission, adopted the Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, a framework for setting and achieving energy savings. And last week, the CPUC announced the state’s biggest energy efficiency initiative yet – a set of programs for 2010-2012, with a three-year budget of $3.1 billion, that will function through California’s principal utilities.

The CPUC’s president, Michael R. Peevey, says the aim of the initiative – touted as the largest such plan in the U.S. – is to support “holistic approaches to energy efficiency” that will help residential and commercial customers, builders, retrofitters, and efficiency educators ”pursue energy efficiency as the resource of first choice.”

The participating utilities are Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, and Southern California Gas Company.

The commission estimates that the programs will create energy savings of almost 7,000 gigawatt hours, 1,500 megawatts, and 150 million metric therms of natural gas – the equivalent of three 500-megawatt power plants. The programs also are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million tons and create 15,000 to 18,000 skilled green jobs over the three-year budget term.

A strong residential component

The CPUC plan also includes the new California Statewide Program for Residential Energy Efficiency (CalSPREE), through which the commission will launch a residential retrofit program designed to reduce energy consumption by as much as 20% for up to 130,000 homes by 2012.

And even though the California Building Standards Code (Title 24) is one of the nation’s most stringent, the commission’s plan funds $175 million for “innovative programs” that deliver net-zero-energy residential and commercial buildings, and offers design assistance and incentives for above-code construction.

In addition, more than $260 million has been approved for local and regional agencies targeting public-building retrofits and other efficiency improvements, and more than $100 million will go to related education and training programs for blue-collar and white-collar workers.

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