Investments in energy efficiency will be financed by gas and electric utility customers as part of their general rates and through an existing 2.4% surcharge on their bills known as the "public goods charge." The monthly bill would increase by about 35 cents for the average Edison residential customer, by $1.18 for the average PG&E residential customer and by $1.23 for the average SDG&E customer. Southern California Gas said its residential bills wouldn't change.
The funding, $225 million annually in the case of Southern California Edison, should wind up helping customers to stabilize and even lower their total bills, said Gene Rodrigues, Rosemead-based Edison's director of energy efficiency. The money is about 50% more than the company originally budgeted for this year, he said.
Boosting efficiency will work only if utilities are held accountable by regulators for the billions of dollars of ratepayer money used for incentives, said Michael Shames, executive director of the Utility Consumers' Action Network in San Diego.
All utility rebate programs will be closely scrutinized by the California Energy Commission, peer review groups and outside auditors, the PUC's Kennedy said. "There's not going to be much abuse," she said.