Utility commissions have tools to promote energy efficiency, progress lags

New York City, August 14, 2012 — State public utility commissions (PUCs) could make progress toward achieving energy efficiency if they used the tools available to them, according to a study released by Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law.

The report, “Public Utilities Commissions & Energy Efficiency: A Handbook of Legal & Regulatory Tools for Commissioners and Advocates,” examines the range of legal and regulatory tools that state PUCs have to promote energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is one of the most economical and effective tools available to improve environmental quality while at the same time helping to ensure the provision of reliable electricity service.

Not only does energy efficiency offer the cheapest way to help meet future demand for electricity, but it also improves the reliability of the electric grid, thereby avoiding brownouts and blackouts; improves public health and environmental quality; and offers many negative cost solutions to addressing the problem of climate change.

However, progress on energy efficiency lags behind potential due to the many practical and regulatory hurdles it faces. Encouragingly, state policy efforts have been dramatically ramping up in the past several years.

A confluence of many factors is driving this renewed attention to energy efficiency: fuel price volatility, new air pollution regulations on traditional power plants, concerns about electric grid reliability, a continued quest for energy security, increasing efforts to craft state-level solutions to the problem of climate change in the continued absence of comprehensive federal legislation, and the development of new technologies that allow greater efficiency.

A number of states have set impressively ambitious new energy efficiency savings targets, generally overseen by state PUCs. But progress on energy efficiency remains uneven, and in most states, considerably more could be done.

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Utility commissions have tools to promote energy efficiency, progress lags

New York City, August 14, 2012 — State public utility commissions (PUCs) could make progress toward achieving energy efficiency if they used the tools available to them, according to a study released by Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law.

The report, “Public Utilities Commissions & Energy Efficiency: A Handbook of Legal & Regulatory Tools for Commissioners and Advocates,” examines the range of legal and regulatory tools that state PUCs have to promote energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is one of the most economical and effective tools available to improve environmental quality while at the same time helping to ensure the provision of reliable electricity service.

Not only does energy efficiency offer the cheapest way to help meet future demand for electricity, but it also improves the reliability of the electric grid, thereby avoiding brownouts and blackouts; improves public health and environmental quality; and offers many negative cost solutions to addressing the problem of climate change.

However, progress on energy efficiency lags behind potential due to the many practical and regulatory hurdles it faces. Encouragingly, state policy efforts have been dramatically ramping up in the past several years.

A confluence of many factors is driving this renewed attention to energy efficiency: fuel price volatility, new air pollution regulations on traditional power plants, concerns about electric grid reliability, a continued quest for energy security, increasing efforts to craft state-level solutions to the problem of climate change in the continued absence of comprehensive federal legislation, and the development of new technologies that allow greater efficiency.

A number of states have set impressively ambitious new energy efficiency savings targets, generally overseen by state PUCs. But progress on energy efficiency remains uneven, and in most states, considerably more could be done.