Efficiency First California's Blog

Advocacy Update: September 2017

Third Party Programs
Typically I don’t focus on incentive programs as part of our advocacy efforts. Rebate program conversations can take up precious bandwidth with meager outcomes. This month I am taking exception and would like to discuss the radical new changes happening to rebates in the near future.
 
First off I need to mention that California is well on the way to having a residential performance based rebate program. PG&E has a Pilot Pay-For-Performance (P4P) program in the works and we should see it roll out any day now. Paying rebates on measured performance is a fundamental change in how things are done. We will keep a close eye on this one.
 

The Latest Trend in Home Performance: Why You Should Be Concerned

For the past couple of years there has been a lot of conversation in the industry about indoor air quality and the health benefits of home performance upgrades. Even the certification folks have jumped on the bandwagon, offering special certifications for home inspections that focus on health and indoor air quality. There is no question that energy upgrades can improve the indoor environment of a home or building; this has always been one of the non-energy benefits of home performance upgrades. The real question is, does this warrant a change in messaging for the home performance industry? Should we be driving the industry to focus on promoting health benefits as a way to stimulate growth and potentially spur market transformation?

Advocacy Update: August 2017

Residential Pay-For-Performance is gaining traction in California. PG&E is close to launching a Pilot program and hopefully will have it in place by the end of the year. The other three IOUs (Investor Owned Utilities) are watching closely.

Running the current Energy Upgrade California rebate program is expensive and by most accounts is not sustainable. How expensive? Check out this chart I created from the recently released CPUC report on EE portfolio costs.

Fiscal Year 2015 - Energy Upgrade California - CPUC Program Expense Report

The True Value of an Energy Audit

Residential energy efficiency, or home performance, has historically been based on measured results. A contractor physically goes to the location, performs a variety of tests and takes all kinds of measurements and then determines a plan of attack to improve the home using building science principles. After the work is complete, the contractor performs the same tests again to validate or verify the results. This “test-in/test-out” process provides measurable and repeatable outcomes.

Advocacy Update: July 2017

Stuck on the “Three Prong Test”

The California Public Utility Commission uses the 3-prong test to allow fuel substitution on projects with incentives. For energy efficiency contractors this represents a barrier that is limiting the switch from natural gas appliances to electric heat pump technology.

In it’s simplest form the 3-prong test requires projects to meet the following criteria:

1. Must not increase source-Btu consumption, using CEC-established heat rates

2. Program/measure/project must have both TRC and PAC benefit-cost ratio ≥1.0

3. Must not adversely impact the environment, using most recently adopted values for avoided costs of emissions.

Will ZNE Transform Energy Efficiency?

There is a lot of conversation these days about making buildings Zero Net Energy (ZNE). The basic idea is that a ZNE house or building produces as much energy as it uses in a year. Early adopters have been interested in ZNE building for years, but its only recently that technology has gotten to the point where it’s possible to make ZNE a reality at a large scale. The combination of a continued reduction in the cost of solar panels along with advances in energy efficiency technology means that the potential for ZNE is growing by the day.

Advocacy Update: June 2017

Posted in: Advocacy

In many expert opinions, the path to a clean energy future will be based on electricity over fossil fuels. In California, outdated regulations and politics are proving to be a roadblock in the transition to an electric future. Converting from natural gas to electricity is considered “fuel switching” and is discouraged by current regulations.

It’s Time to Stop Using Fire in Our Homes

At some point in time man gained control over fire. Fire was very useful: it could be used to cook food, provide light, and its heat allowed us to survive in hostile environments.

Thousands of years later, some things haven’t changed much. Whether we have a natural gas or propane furnace or (in some parts of the country) an oil fired boiler, most of us still rely on fire in some form to heat our homes and our water. Many of us use open flames for cooking as well: the gas cooktop is a favorite of many culinary experts.

Good Intentions, Poor Results

The energy efficiency industry in California is tangled with regulation.

Without a doubt, there are many policies that have been successful. California’s strict building codes have reduced energy use per capita and are responsible for eliminating the need to build 15-20 new power plants over the last 30 years. This is a great result and job well done.

But there are also plenty of cases where regulations that aren’t enforced actually end up penalizing those who play by the rules. It’s time to rethink our approach so we can level the playing field and get the good results we all agree are needed.

Building a Clean Energy Future, Respect for the People Who Will Build It

You don’t need to spend a great of time deal in the policy world before you hear a conversation about workforce development. In fact, the Energy Upgrade California incentive program was originally created as a workforce development solution. Flashback to 2008, the Great Recession: contractors were out of work and the economy was in a downward spiral. The incoming Obama administration designed a program to stimulate the economy. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law February of 2009 and was intended to save existing jobs and create new ones. Lots of ARRA funds flowed into the energy efficiency industry and hopes were bright.