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State Renews Energy Conservation Rebates

June 07, 2002|TIM REITERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

State regulators voted Thursday to renew a successful energy conservation program that provides utility customers with a 20% reduction in their electricity bills if they trim their consumption by the same percentage.

At the request of Gov. Gray Davis, the California Public Utilities Commission unanimously adopted a new version of the 20/20 program, which state officials credit with helping stave off rolling blackouts last summer. This year's program will run from July through October in the service territories of Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric.

There are some changes in the new program. It will apply this year only to residential customers, not commercial and industrial customers.

Monthly energy consumption will be compared with the same month in 2000, rather than 2001. By using consumption from 2000, officials said, customers who reduced usage last year will not be penalized. New customers and those who have moved will have their consumption compared with the average in their area.

Customers who reduce their consumption during a given month will receive a credit on their next monthly bill. Utilities plan to start notifying people about the program through bill inserts and advertising this month.

The program is financed by the state Department of Water Resources, which began buying some power last year when utilities got into financial trouble.

About one-third of Edison's customers received rebates last summer amounting to $62 million. Officials project that the program will yield similar or greater electricity savings this year.

Edison spokesman Gil Alexander said there is some concern that consumers might relax their conservation efforts because of news reports that the energy crisis has eased and the state projects adequate electricity supplies this summer. But, he added, "We believe they will continue to conserve."

There will be automatic energy savings, Alexander said, because many customers have improved the efficiency of their appliances, heating and lighting.

Last year the utility sent out more than 70,000 rebate checks totaling $8.9 million to customers who replaced older, energy-wasting refrigerators and made other energy improvements.

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