"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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CA Energy Policy: From Better to Best

Originally published in SFGate.com.

California has long been a model for America when it comes to energy policy, particularly energy efficiency. Now California’s governor and the state legislature are looking to put even more horsepower behind these successful energy policies.

More than 30 years ago, then-Governor Jerry Brown set the stage for dramatic improvement in energy efficiency when he gave California utilities an incentive to “sell” less power. The energy efficiency programs adopted since then have led to dramatic savings and positioned California as a national leader in energy efficiency.

Over the last 40 years, California’s per capita electricity use has remained relatively flat, while per capita electricity use in the rest of the United States has continued to rise. Californians now use less than half the electricity per capita than the U.S. as a whole.

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One of the key reasons that California residents and businesses have generally lower energy bills than other Americans is that they use less energy. Of course, the mild weather helps. But energy efficiency programs, codes, and standards have saved Californians more than $65 billion dollars over the past three decades, according to state reports.

And the scale of the utility driven programs does more than lower bills. These programs help to power a growing green economy. The Center for Strategic Economic Research (CSER) estimated that, in 2012 alone, the total economic impact of PG&E’s energy efficiency programs generated nearly 7,700 jobs and $1.1 billion of economic output across northern and central California.

From working with manufacturers to lower energy use of appliances, to social norms marketing campaigns, to good old fashioned caulk, insulation and energy efficient light bulbs, California’s utilities are managing both big and small changes that are changing energy habits.

PG&E’s residential customers received almost $99 million in energy efficiency incentives between 2010 and 2013. Industrial customers received almost $85 million in energy efficiency incentives from PG&E between 2010 and 2013. Commercial customers received more than $250 million in energy efficiency incentives from PG&E between 2010 and 2013. And K–12 schools, colleges and universities received more than $60.5 million in energy efficiency incentives from PG&E between 2010 and 2013.

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As successful as these energy efficiency policies have been – and they have certainly helped to set a national standard – business and political leaders in California are continuing to explore how to lower carbon emissions further in the nation’s largest state.

Just recently, the same legislator who helped write California’s pioneering greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction law (AB 32, 2006) introduced new legislation to lower GHG to 80 percent below 1990 levels. While this dramatic reduction is still only a proposal, it is one in a flurry of bills that have accompanied Governor Brown’s call for increased renewable energy efforts and GHG reductions.

Meeting these new standards means investing even more in everything from electric vehicles to new renewable generation to an updated grid to even greater investment in saving energy through energy efficiency programs.

From Best to Even Better

In a recent Ceres, Clean Edge study that examines the deployment of clean energy by 32 investor-owned electric utility companies, PG&E ranked first in cumulative annual energy efficiency savings.

We’ve come a long way in more than 30 years, with many lessons learned, including the power of leveraging our trusted energy relationship with customers and how to maximize economies of scale.

PGE_EE-infographic_0605And we’re always testing and learning and then applying those lessons, with programs like our Green Button that allows customers to easily download their personal energy usage to our Home Energy Reports and Home Energy Audits that help customers spot and fix energy “leaks” in their homes.

But just as California set the standard for the country with our original model for energy efficiency, we’re set to do it again in the coming years. PG&E is proud to be an integral part of efforts to save our customers money, lower greenhouse gas emissions and build California’s green economy through innovative energy efficiency programs.

To learn more, visit www.caenergyefficiencymodel.com.