California’s energy efficiency efforts for existing buildings have been treading water — when we need much faster progress. The Sacramento Bee ran an op-ed from me today on ways to address the challenge:
A solution might be to emulate the success of rooftop solar. It has spread quickly in part because many companies offer no-money-down, long-term loans, backed by capital market investment. The same financing could work with energy-efficiency retrofits, since they also promise to reduce electricity bills at a steady rate.
So why is private capital sitting on the sidelines? Because, unlike with solar panels, we haven’t been able to reliably measure the energy we don’t use due to energy-efficiency measures in buildings – and provide the documented, standardized savings to attract large-scale financing.
Fortunately, technology is coming to the rescue. New software and methodologies can more accurately measure and verify the energy saved through efficiency improvements, and can account for a variety of factors, such as weather and building use.
But the state needs a uniform, state-sanctioned methodology and technology standard in order to encourage utilities to base incentives on the measured efficiency gains. Ultimately, we’d like to see utility procurement of energy savings the same way they procure generation resources, as San Diego Gas & Electric just did in procuring 18.5 megawatts of energy efficiency, working with Willdan Energy Solutions on specific retrofit methods for local buildings.