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January 15, 2014
Utilities - energy efficiency, GHG emissions, green local government, municipal facilities, water efficiency, water energy

The path to sustainability is difficult. Collaboration and joint efforts can help ease our journey. To this end, leaders from water and energy utilities as well as representatives from local governments of Southern California recently participated in a roundtable to discuss the opportunities to support each other in their efforts to promote energy and water efficiency. The 2013 Utility Sustainability Roundtable, the fourth such event, addressed three main topics: The Water-Energy Nexus, Aligning City Planning and Utility Incentive Cycles, and Cap-and-Trade.

Starting with the Water-Energy Nexus, attendees identified finding ways to present both water and energy efficiency opportunities to customers simultaneously as key to increasing participation in these programs. Such joint marketing must be specific to the customer and therefore requires water and energy suppliers to work together to raise awareness about savings opportunities and available incentives in their overlapping service territories. Joint water-energy audits have also proven to be a successful way to coordinate for increased customer participation.

The discussion then moved to Aligning City Planning and Utility Incentive Cycles. Coordinated communications between utilities and local governments may allow more trust to build and incentive funding to better enable scheduled system renovations in municipal buildings.

The last discussion topic related to an emerging topic: Cap-and-Trade. A forward-looking concept was presented that provides a framework by which utilities might be able to put additional funds toward the energy efficiency projects of local governments in return for the resulting emissions reductions.

The study also highlights a couple initiatives that would help move the ideas discussed forward. Download  the full report for more details.

August 26, 2010
Utilities - energy efficiency

Utility programs are natural conduits for the delivery of comprehensive sustainability programs that include energy efficiency and renewable energy in combination with climate action, water efficiency, smart growth, waste reduction and recycling.  The California Sustainability Alliance conducted its first Utility Sustainability Roundtable in November 2007 in order to identify opportunities for utilities to leverage their energy efficiency programs through the broader umbrella of sustainability.  The Alliance was delighted to learn that some utilities were already looking beyond traditional programs for new ways to save energy, and that sustainability was one of the key strategies being explored.

At the Alliance’s second Utility Sustainability Roundtable, held in spring 2010, the issue was revisited within the context of current markets, policies, rules and regulations.  While roundtable participants generally agreed that climate action and other sustainability initiatives do provide additional channels for achieving more cost-effective clean energy, a wide variety of hurdles that substantially impede innovation were identified.

Notably, most utility energy programs in energy efficiency, demand response and renewable energy are purposely kept separate from one another, ostensibly to assure that ratepayer investments fund only those programs for which the funds were intended.  Unfortunately, creating walls around programs that are inherently complementary can thwart a utilities’ ability to access the multiple resources and value streams from cross-cutting programs that could otherwise benefit the very ratepayers.

One thing is clear:  in order to overcome these types of barriers, California needs representatives from all key stakeholder groups – policymakers, regulators, state and local agencies, utilities, and ratepayers – to come together to help identify these types of unintended consequences so that we can work together to overcome them. Download the 2010 Utility Sustainability Roundtable Report.