New Organization Could Help Push Energy Efficiency Programs to Even Higher Levels

A new organization is being formed that could help vault energy efficiency programs to a new level of performance and accomplishment in California and we’re looking for technical experts to help make that happen.

The California Technical Forum (Cal TF) will be comprised of experts who use independent professional judgment and a transparent and rigorous process to develop and review energy-savings estimates and other technical parameters related to California’s energy efficiency programs, policies, and energy resource plans.

As I described in a recent U.S. EPA webinar, the first and most important reason we decided to undertake the challenging effort to create a new organization is that energy efficiency is more important than ever in continuing to grow our economy and protect our environment.

In order to plan and implement efficiency programs, we need to have reliable estimates of the impact of the technologies and actions supported by the efficiency programs aimed at reducing our energy use. Given the scale of the more than $1 billion invested annually in California in these programs, the development of these estimates can be contentious and resource-intensive, which can undermine our effectiveness and make it difficult to capture all of the cost-effective potential savings.

Scientists have long known that collaborative efforts can help increase both accuracy and confidence in their work. In particular, the use of peer review – in which a panel of independent experts reviews technical analyses – is a well-established approach.  Looking around the country for effective models, we found that the Pacific Northwest’s Regional Technical Forum (RTF) provides a compelling model of the use of collaboration and peer review to produce accurate and credible estimates of energy savings. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we decided to see if we could bring that model to California.

What do we hope to accomplish?

With such a forum,  we expect to get accurate estimates of energy savings for efficiency technologies and actions that can be used for program planning and implementation. We believe that the use of an expert peer review panel should result in independent and unbiased estimates.

We also recognize that process is important. We want to create a process that is inclusive and transparent because we believe that is the best way to build confidence and credibility.

Beyond that, we want to produce savings estimates that are consistent statewide. Right now, two different utilities with adjacent service territories might be using inconsistent estimates for the same technology. That doesn’t make sense and it stands in the way of implementing coordinated, statewide programs and integrating efficiency into resource plans.

Finally, we know that energy efficiency is not just important for California. Increasingly, states and regions across the country are focusing on energy efficiency as the cheapest, cleanest, and fastest new resource for their citizens. We want to support this movement by establishing a model that can be adopted across the country.

How will we meet the goals?

With these goals in mind and using the RTF as a model, we’re establishing the California Technical Forum (or “Cal TF” for short). The heart of the Cal TF will be a panel of up to 30 technical experts who will work together to review and develop savings estimates for energy efficiency measures. The panel will be composed of a diverse group of academics, researchers, utility staff, and consultants. They will include engineers, economists, modelers, and social scientists. And they will be selected to ensure a balance of technical expertise, sector experience, technology focus, and policy and institutional background. We also hope to include a number of experts from leading national efficiency organizations, including the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Department of Energy, Lawerence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers.

Perhaps an obvious question is why we expect thirty experts to volunteer their time and expertise to this initiative. The answer is that being a member of the Cal TF will give them an opportunity to contribute to this national model for developing deemed savings values. Members of the Cal TF will be able to engage with other technical experts with a broad range of skills, experience, and perspective; recommend new measures for consideration in efficiency portfolios; and help shape the future of the California Technical Forum.

An Advisory Committee, composed of stakeholders representing a wide range of public and private interests, will support the Cal TF’s work. The Advisory Committee includes representatives from energy regulators and planners, private and public utilities, environmental and consumer advocates, local governments and regional organizations, and the energy efficiency industry itself. The committee will have a number of responsibilities, including drafting the charter and bylaws, oversight of the budget and staff, and ensuring the organization is meeting its goals. But perhaps the Advisory Committee’s most important job will be selecting the forum’s members from among the many experts that apply.

We recently released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) soliciting applications for Cal TF membership. The Advisory Council will make its selections for the panel in May with the Technical Forum’s inaugural meeting scheduled in San Francisco in June. Public notices will be issued for all meetings and interested parties are encouraged to attend and contribute.