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California utilities fell short of energy-savings goals, watchdog says

Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas should be penalized for receiving bonuses while falling short of goals, the PUC's watchdog says.

May 05, 2010|By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times

Several California utilities should be penalized for receiving bonuses while falling short of their energy-saving goals, the state utility regulator's independent watchdog arm said Tuesday.

From 2006 to 2008, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Gas Co. spent $2 billion of customers' money, amassed through a small charge on each bill, to fund energy efficiency programs that were expected to return $2.7 billion in savings. Instead, ratepayers got benefits of just $426 million, or about 16 cents for every dollar spent, as the utilities funneled $144 million in bonuses to shareholders, the Public Utilities Commission's Division of Ratepayer Advocates said.

The investor-owned utilities reached just 70% of their energy-saving goals on average, the watchdog division said, citing an independent study released by the commission's Energy Division in April. The utilities had reported that they had exceeded their goals by 60%.

Division of Ratepayer Advocates Director Dana Appling said that the commission's study "shows that customers didn't get what they paid for, yet the utilities earn massive bonuses while customer energy rates continue to increase."

Southern California Edison issued a statement contending that the Division of Ratepayer Advocates had used flawed measurements. The utility said its customers saved more than a billion kilowatt-hours each year from 2006 to 2008 through its programs, including free information, energy audits and refrigerator recycling.

Mark Gaines, director of customer programs for San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas, said the two utilities "exceeded the goals in nearly every category."

The utilities commission is encouraging lackluster performance by implementing rewards programs and reducing energy savings requirements, said Cheryl Cox, a senior policy analyst with the advocacy division.

"Based on the report, there shouldn't have been any payment at all," she said. "If the commission were to consider giving them even more money, we would consider that a problem."

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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