CPUC Decision Opens Up Energy Efficiency Measures to More California Residents

November 18—The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently set the budget goals and policy direction for the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) rate assistance program and Energy Savings Assistance (ESA) weatherization program, which are offered by the state’s investor-owned utilities.

The CARE program will continue to give a 30–35 percent discount on electric bills and a 20 percent discount on gas bills to qualifying low-income customers as it has in the past. In a change of policy, CPUC’s decision determined that CARE funds to be used for the Green Tariff Shared Renewables (GTSR) program. The GTSR program is designed to allow customers to receive 50% - 100% of their electricity demand from solar generation. By allowing CARE funds to be used for GTSR, CPUC is offering a way for the low-income community to benefit from this renewable-energy program.

Another significant change in the CPUC ruling impacts the ESA program. ESA, which provides no-cost weatherization to customers that meet CARE eligibility requirements, has been predominately focused on single-family residences in the past. However, with its recent decision, CPUC has opened the program up to the common areas in subsidized multi-family housing where at least 65 percent of the residents would qualify for CARE. This includes government or non-profit owned or controlled housing projects. According to a CPUC press release, these buildings will be eligible for energy efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and water heater upgrades.

The expansion of this program came as the CPUC recognized that it frequently had unspent funds at the end of each year, in large part because of policy that did not allow energy efficiency measures in places such as multi-family housing. According to one news report, nearly one-third of the state’s eligible low-income community lives in multi-family housing. Though this new decision helps individuals and families residing in subsidized multi-family housing, it still does not cover the nearly 1 million low-income residents who live in unsubsidized multi-family residences.

CPUC’s new policies and budget goals are set through the end of 2020.

Sources: CPUC press release, media report