California regulators Thursday set interim energy efficiency savings goals for the 2012-2020 period, which will have implications for the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) limits (AB 32). Overall, the goal seeks to save enough energy to eliminate the need for an added 4,500 MW, or the equivalent of nine major generation plants.

Standards established on an interim basis now will be updated in two years to make sure they include “the best available data,” just prior to the next round of utility energy efficiency planning. For the period between now and 2012, regulators defined efficiency goals at “gross” levels and said later this year they will consider changes in current risk/reward incentive mechanisms to ensure they work with the gross-level approach to efficiency during the next three years.

The 5-0 decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) covers all of the private-sector electric and natural gas utility operations in the state. A goal over the period for gas targets more than 620 million therms of savings.

This decision has targeted and calculated potential savings going beyond just what the investor-owned utilities do to save energy. The goals also take into consideration a new state building code, federal appliance standards, more aggressive efficiency programs and a new law requiring all state facilities to install state-of-the-art lighting.

Noting that along with the new long-term goals the decision adopts a new approach know as “total market gross basis,” CPUC Commissioner Dian Grueneich said savings will be calculated from the other areas outside of the utility sphere. “This decision, alongside the rollout of the California long-term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, will play a pivotal part in achieving unprecedented levels of energy savings and emissions reductions in California,” she said.

CPUC President Michael Peevey reiterated that energy efficiency is the “preferred way” in California to meet the state’s future energy needs as outlined in the state Energy Action Plan.

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