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Promoting Good Energy Efficiency Policy on Earth Day

Doug Johnson, Consumer Technology Association

Earth Day Eve 2014 was an especially busy day for the California State Assembly’s Utilities and Commerce Committee. Members heard a dozen significant bills on April 21, including two important pieces of legislation with different approaches to achieving California’s energy efficiency goals. In a very positive development, the outstanding leadership of Chairman Steven Bradford guided the committee toward strongly backing a CEA-supported and sponsored bill, AB 2581 (Bradford), while sharing serious reservations and concerns about a CEA-opposed bill, AB 2529 (Williams).

AB 2581 is a simple but important regulatory reform bill, which would implement several critical guidelines involving the state’s approach to improving energy efficiency. The bill would:

  • Direct the California Energy Commission (CEC) to use the most recent available data in any new energy efficiency rulemaking, ensuring that consumers actually achieve energy and cost savings in any resulting regulations;
  • Allow the CEC to recognize and defer to private-sector voluntary agreements – such as the recent, landmark voluntary agreement  on set-top boxes – in lieu of traditional regulatory mandates in achieving energy savings goals; and
  •  Provide a streamlined process for the CEC to eliminate regulations that are duplicative, outmoded or inconsistent with federal or state law.
I was proud to be at the witness table alongside the chairman when he presented our bill, and to testify on our members’ behalf. We were honored to have many allied industry associations support the bill, including the California Cable & Telecommunications Association, the Information Technology Industry Council and TechNet. Backed by our thoughtful insights on the value of the bill and strong show of unanimity, AB 2581 passed out of committee with overwhelming and bipartisan support.

At the same hearing, the committee took up AB 2529 by Assembly member Das Williams. While no doubt well-intentioned, AB 2529 would create arbitrary energy-reduction goals for plug-load devices along an arbitrary timeline, and would exempt whole categories of devices while including others for no stated reason. CEA opposed this bill and communicated to the author and the committee that the proposal seems duplicative of the recently-announced new round of pre-rulemaking actions by the CEC. In short, the bill would put the proverbial cart before the horse by stating goals for energy consumption reduction, while at the same time calling for a new study to determine what the appropriate goals should be.

Our concerns about AB 2529 were well-received by the members of the committee, with several questioning the author and raising the same concerns. Members called the proposed consumption targets arbitrary and unachievable. With that in mind, out of legislative courtesy, the committee passed the bill on to a second policy committee, but only after the author agreed with the concerns raised and committed to significant amendments that would base energy reduction goals from the study on achievability and other reasonable criteria. 

CEA will of course closely monitor the amendments to AB 2529. And as we do, it’s worth recognizing this commemoration of Earth Day as the perfect time to advance sensible and effective energy efficiency policies.