A committee of energy professionals is recommending the state streamline its Office of Clean Energy and improve its energy-efficiency programs to bring savings to ratepayers.
The recommendations were among several the state Board of Public Utilities was expected to hear today at the latest public hearing on the draft 2011 energy master plan. The board was scheduled to hear testimony from the first of four so-called working groups, made up of industry members and stakeholders who were asked to consider the draft plan released in June by Gov. Chris Christie.
The report from the first committee, the Clean Energy Funding Work Group, recommends that the Office of Clean Energy improve its “budgeting and fiscal administration,” among other areas. The report said the office should no longer carry over budget surpluses, and should instead return the funds to ratepayers through reductions in the following year’s rates.
“This is basically a bottom-up sort of analysis of how the state has offered its energy efficiency and renewable energy programs to customers, and how the delivery system should be changed to make it more efficient to bring down the cost of the programs to consumers,” said Steven Goldenberg, an attorney with Fox Rothschild who chaired the working group. Goldenberg was expected to testify today before the BPU.
The 87-page report also calls for improving the evaluation procedures for the state’s clean energy program, which offers financial incentives and services to residents, business owners and local governments. Energy-efficiency programs should be analyzed before they are approved using market research and a cost-benefit analysis, and afterward through measurement procedures and user reactions, the report said.
The group, which collaborated for about three months on the report, also said the state should not force utilities to develop energy-efficiency programs if they have not already done so.
The work group said it supported moving administration of the energy-efficiency programs to a contracted third party. The report points to “multiple and overlapping layers of authority that are part of the current program,” which Goldenberg said involved two marketing managers and a program administrator.
The group in turn recommended against creating a so-called “energy-efficiency utility” to administer the programs, as suggested in the draft plan, because its functions would be too similar to those of a third-party administrator.
“One of the findings we made was that there’s a duplication of efforts,” Goldenberg said. “It’s not necessary the most-efficient model, and at the end of the day we thought that (a third-party) was a good way to do it, and it basically gave you everything that an energy-efficiency utility would give you.”
The recommendations mark the latest step to mold the state’s new energy master plan. The Christie administration in June released a draft of the plan, which called for a new focus on renewable energy, cost savings, economic development and environmental protection.
In the coming months, the BPU will hear from three other working groups on alternatively fueled vehicles, innovative technologies and biomass.