Pennsylvania Utility Regulator Ponders the Future of Energy Efficiency

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Commission seeks public comments as it prepares to extend efficiency programs.

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The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) recently convened a stakeholder meeting to consider extending and redesigning Pennsylvania’s successful energy efficiency and conservation (EE&C) programs.

Under Act 129 of 2008, the Pennsylvania legislature directed the PUC to create an initial set of EE&C programs (“Phase I”) during which electric distribution companies (EDCs) must design and implement EE&C programs to achieve electricity targets specified in the statute or face penalties ranging from $1 million to $20 million. If Phase I is found to be cost-effective, the PUC must order the extension of those programs (“Phase II”). In anticipation of Phase I’s expiration in 2013, the PUC issued a Secretarial Letter for public comments on a variety of changes it might make to EE&C programs if Phase II is required.

In the near future, the PUC is likely to issue an order that addresses such major points as the duration and required electricity savings of Phase II, as well as the budgets that each EDC will be permitted to spend on its Phase II EE&C program.

The PUC may also consider rewarding EDCs that exceed their savings goals in order to ensure a smooth transition. For example, the PUC may credit excess savings toward future targets or establish a financial incentive to encourage EDCs to invest heavily in energy efficiency.

Other issues likely to be considered include modifications to demand response targets and the future of savings carve-outs for low-income, government, educational, and non-profit customers.

The PUC initiated this process earlier than anticipated in order to avoid EE&C program interruptions. PECO Energy Company, a major EDC serving southeastern Pennsylvania, expects to reach its 2013 targets ahead of schedule and began preparing to modify its EE&C programs by changing qualifying requirements or placing consumers on waitlists for energy efficiency services.

The PUC will accept public comments on the Secretarial Letter through April 17, 2012.