California Approves $1 Billion for Low-Income Energy Efficiency

November 12, 2008

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved a budget of $1 billion over the next three years for the state's Low Income Energy Efficiency program. The program provides energy efficient appliances and weatherization measures at no cost to California households with low incomes. Stressing that the program must reach much higher numbers of households than in the past, the CPUC calls for all eligible customers to be given an opportunity to participate in the program by 2020, and it also calls for the program to evolve toward energy efficiency strategies that have longer-term payback times. The ruling also allows certain measures that improve health, comfort, and safety, even if the cost effectiveness of those measures is low. The program is administered by the state's four large investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, Southern California Edison Company, and Southern California Gas Company.

The CPUC ruling calls for utilities to identify the poorer neighborhoods in their customer base and then identify energy efficiency opportunities by examining the energy use of each household in the targeted neighborhoods. The ruling also calls for comprehensive energy audits in each participating home, followed by a "whole house" approach to identifying energy efficiency improvements. In other words, the CPUC wants to avoid piecemeal strategies, such as handing out free compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), in favor of more integrated energy efficiency programs. The CPUC also wants the utilities to move toward an integrated, statewide program for marketing, education, and outreach, focusing on adopting energy efficiency as a way of life, rather than on specific measures like CFLs. See the CPUC press release and decision.