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Utilities get energy efficiency bonuses

December 16, 2010 |  5:38 pm

California regulators awarded $62.7 million in energy efficiency incentive payments to the state's four biggest public utilities.

The rewards go to investor-owned companies, such as Southern California Edison Co., that achieve at least 85% of energy-saving goals established by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Consumer groups opposed the bonuses.

The five-member commission on a 3-2 vote Thursday gave $29.1 million to Pacific Gas & Electric Co., $24.1 million to Southern California Edison, $5.1 million to San Diego Gas & Electric and $9.9 million to Southern California Gas Co.

"The additional incentive rewards provided to the utilities today recognize their efforts and achievements in promoting energy efficiency across California," said PUC President Michael Peevey. "Such incentives encourage the utilities to embrace energy efficiency as a core part of their business model by aligning the utility profit motive with the broad deployment of energy efficiency measures."

Both the PUC's own independent consumer advocacy division and an outside consumer group opposed the incentive payments. The agency's Division of Ratepayer Advocates noted that a PUC staff report released in April found that the four utilities failed to make sufficient energy efficiency progress between 2006 and 2008 to trigger payments.

A PUC administrative law judge subsequently concluded that the utilities should not receive the latest rewards.

"The CPUC is rewarding failure," said Mark Toney, executive director of the Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco ratepayers group. "Clear standards exist for successful energy efficiency programs, and PG&E, Edison, SDG&E and SoCalGas didn't meet them. This is free money for companies already awash in profits."

-- Marc Lifsher