Reflecting the continuing race in California to stay out front on energy efficiency through massive ratepayer-funded programs, Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas Co. Tuesday announced it has recently signed contracts totaling $26 million with outside providers to expand residential and small business energy efficiency programs through 2008.

Overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission, the gas utility administers the contracts signed through a competitive bidding process. Participation in the program by customers is strictly voluntary, although real energy and dollar savings will be closely measured to assure that the efforts are as cost-effective as they purport to be.

The contracts include two with providers specializing in residential and school programs, and another five business programs in the mobile home, air conditioning systems, commercial laundry, natural gas air conditioning and energy system “mapping” sectors.

SoCalGas is offering customers the chance to learn more about programs directly from the contractors, whose websites are linked to the utility’s own Internet site (

“The gas utility also is expanding its energy efficiency programs by signing agree with four additional contractors,” said a SoCalGas spokesperson, noting that the additional providers include three firms — Global Energy Services, Intergy Corp. and Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment — to increase outreach to various ethnic communities, and Navigant Consulting for help in designing other future energy efficiency programs.

The other contractors who won bids are Heschong Mahone Group, LivingWise, American Synergy Corp., Quantum Energy Services and Technologies, Cal-UCONS, Cypress Ltd., and California Manufacturing Technology Consulting.

SoCal’s program is aiming at a three-year savings goal of 58 million therms of natural gas, according to Mark Gaines, the utility’s customer programs director, who said the expanded programs are geared to reach out to broader, more diverse groups of customers and businesses.

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