Last month the California Public Utilities Commission quietly approved the largest state investment in energy efficiency on record. The $3.1 billion dollar investment will prevent the construction of 3 large power plants, save California customers billions of dollars, and take a big step towards reducing California's global warming pollution.
The investments, made by California's investor owned utilities, will pay for a wide variety of programs, including local government partnerships, efficient appliance rebates, improvement of energy efficiency codes and standards, improving efficiency of new residential and commercial construction, investments with manufacturers to improve lighting technologies, and the nation's largest energy-retrofit program for existing buildings (targeting 130,000 homes).
The utility investments show two important points that are too often ignored: first many climate change solutions will actually save people money and create new jobs and clean energy industries. Second, well thought out regulation can change a company's operating assumptions and incentives, as indicated by PG&E's recent departure from the Chamber of Commerce. Peter Darbee's thoughtful letter is just one example of the string of companies that are dissatisfied with the Chamber's attempts to confuse and delay real debate on national climate policy. Because of well designed policy, PG&E benefits greatly from well-made investments in energy efficiency, and can even profit from them, after they provide savings to California customers.