The state is allowing Public Service Electric & Gas to once again offer energy-saving programs to help hospitals, multifamily units, and government buildings cut their electric and gas bills.
With the approval of the Board of Public Utilities last week, the state’s largest utility will extend three popular energy efficiency programs while offering residential customers a couple of new options to help reduce bills and better manage energy use.
The existing programs are targeted to underserved markets where sizable energy savings could be reaped, but have not occurred because the recipients lack the capital to invest in ways to cut energy use.
“Energy efficiency remains a huge missed opportunity for too many of our customers,’’ said Courtney McCormick, vice president of renewables and energy solutions at PSE&G.
For the first time, the utility won approval to offer residential customers a $150 discount on smart thermostats under the $85.1 million program approved by the BPU. PSE&G will invest $6.5 million to offer 35,000 customers the chance to purchase the thermostats at a discount, according to McCormick.
The utility also is investing $2.5 million in a new residential home-energy reporting program, which will identify a variety of energy consumption data to help customers reduce bills.
But the bulk of the money the utility intends to invest will go to continue energy efficiency programs that have helped curb bills at 35 hospitals, 13,000 individual apartments, and 1,500 government and nonprofit buildings and small businesses.
The utility plans to spend $25 million on its hospital efficiency program, which could involve up to five or six additional hospitals. For the multifamily program, PSE&G is projecting it could fit another 15 to 20 buildings into the program with a $20 million investment. As many as 400 additional government buildings, nonprofits, or small businesses could receive funding for energy conservation efforts under the Direct Install program.
The residential impact of the program will be minimal, according to the BPU. The typical residential customer’s bill will increase only by about 68 cents a year on the electric side and by about $1 on the gas side.
With the new spending, the utility will have invested about $406 million in energy efficiency programs, although executives have repeatedly said they would like to expand such expenditures in the future.
Ralph Izzo, chairman, president, and CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group, told analysts this summer the company plans to seek approval for a bigger program early next year, along with changes to regulations that discourage investments in such programs.
“We can’t recover our fixed costs,’’ McCormick said, referring to the current regulatory model. “Once you adjust the business model appropriately, the utility is in the best position to promote these efforts.’’
The utility is exploring what other opportunities are available for broadening its clean-energy programs, McCormick said, citing helping state colleges and universities as one underserved market.