Publicly-owned utilities eliminated pollution emitted by the equivalent of more than 430,000 cars in the past 12 years, according to a new study by environmental nonprofit organization the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The study’s authors report that 38 utilities — ranging from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to small companies serving less than 400 customers — avoided the need for two 500-megawatt power plants and saved 6,500 GWh of electricity. Publicly-owned utilities provide power to almost one-quarter of California’s population.
The utilities are important for California to meet its goals of doubling energy efficiency savings by 2030 and becoming carbon neutral by 2045, report author Lara Ettenson said.
“While many POU efficiency programs have had great successes, all utilities need to scale up if California is to reach its climate goals and keep electricity bills as low as possible,” said Ettenson.
The report also shows utilities invested about $1.6 billion in efficiency programs to help cut greenhouse gas emissions since 2006. Last year customers saved $850 million on electric bills and avoided the yearly pollution from 65,000 cars.
“They have set 10-year targets, but if they scaled up even more to meet a national benchmark of how much energy is considered aggressive, they would reach even 50 percent savings then they are already planning for,” Ettenson said.
To cut reductions even more, she said utilities can implement a number of strategies, including expanding energy saving programs to low income earners and to rural areas.
"As long as the utility is saving more money than the investment costs they can all scale up to make a lot more impact on saving customers energy,” Ettenson said.
Other ways utilities can increase reductions are by making sure programs are evaluated often, improving the efficiency target-setting process by questioning how and why they are set up and by exploring new ways that can serve a wide range of customers.