The BPU Working Groups: Who They Are And Why They Matter

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A Blog Series Covering How the Clean Energy Act is Transforming New Jersey’s EE Landscape

By EEA-NJ Staff on July 15, 2021

Welcome back to A New Era For Efficiency: a blog series on how the Clean Energy Act is transforming New Jersey’s energy efficiency landscape.

In our last post, we covered the Clean Energy Act; ongoing dialogue between utilities, intervenors like EEA-NJ, and regulators at the Board of Public Utilities (BPU); and the July 1 launch of new utility-operated energy efficiency programs. In short, we covered how we got here. So where do we go now?

In this post, we’ll cover one of the biggest forces shaping these program rollouts: the BPU Working Groups. As utility programs transform from written plans to on-the-ground projects, these Working Groups facilitate dialogue between utilities, regulators, and stakeholders. The Working Groups provide recommendations and guidance to the BPU, and they have the potential to be a major avenue for EE industry participation.

The Working Groups

The Working Groups came about thanks to the BPU’s June 10, 2020 order, which laid out the framework for launching utility-run programs. The order delineated four Working Groups examining four significant aspects of the EE transition: Workforce Development, Equity, EM&V, and Marketing. These groups launched in April 2021 to provide pre-rollout guidance.

Fast-forward to August 2021: all NJ utilities have come to settlement agreements with the BPU, EE program rollout is firmly underway, and the Working Groups are here to stay for the foreseeable future. We expect that their task—providing guidance and expert insight on EE programs—will extend not only through initial program rollouts, but throughout the next three years of developing and refining EE programs. After three years, these groups could play a crucial role in a triennial re-assessment of how the programs are working and how they can be improved.

What, exactly, do these Working Groups talk about? They look at four distinct but interconnected components of NJ’s energy efficiency transformation:

Workforce Development

Did you know that one-quarter of all NJ energy industry jobs are in energy efficiency? At the end of 2019, this sector employed almost 38,000 New Jersey residents. EE is an economic powerhouse, and the Workforce Development Group is tasked with making the most of its economic potential.

Helping the industry offer employment to more people is part of EE workforce development, but that’s far from all of it. Development is also about providing training pathways for the wide range of skills needed in the EE industry. And it’s about making sure training and job opportunities are available for everyone—including those in frontline and historically disenfranchised communities. Ensuring a steady and equitable workforce pipeline for these in-demand positions is essential to achieving the goals of the Clean Energy Act.

Equity

There are some costs associated with EE programs, and many benefits—lower energy bills, comfortable indoor spaces, healthier air quality, economic development, and well-paying jobs that make a difference in their community are just a few. The Equity Group provides guidance on ensuring these costs and benefits are fairly distributed across NJ’s diverse communities.

The Equity Working Group—along with the Comfort Partners and Multifamily subcommittees—tackle equity issues specific to LMI (low-to-moderate income) and multifamily residency communities. This group also looks at supplier diversity among companies who win EE program contracts, with an eye towards making sure all communities can benefit from increased EE employment opportunities. Together, these groups ensure that renters, apartment dwellers, and members of historically disenfranchised communities aren’t cut out of the conversation.

Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification (EM&V)

How do you know that an EE program is actually working? It can be trickier than you’d think. Evaluators need high-quality data from the right sources, and they need to analyze it with appropriate methods. The EM&V Group tackles a wide range of evaluation issues, from the best methodology for translating energy savings to GHG emission reductions to statewide standards for measuring economic impact. A Statewide Evaluator spearheads this complex and ongoing evaluation process.

The BPU has made it clear that this Working Group should (and hopefully will) invite subject matter experts to help inform the group on various aspects of EM&V. But membership has been limited (so far) to rate counsel, the BPU staff, and the Statewide Evaluator’s team.

Marketing

Great EE programs can only do so much if people don’t even know they exist. The Marketing Working Group works on developing awareness and buy-in among NJ communities, contractors, and other stakeholders. While utilities market their own programs, this group promotes statewide awareness of EE benefits. The marketing group ensures marketing materials get produced in Spanish and other non-English languages to reach more of NJ’s diverse communities.

EEA-NJ and the Working Groups

Industry input is critical for the success of these Working Groups, and for New Jersey’s energy transition as a whole. EE companies have on-the-ground experience and expertise relevant to all elements of designing and executing the new utility programs, from pointing out gaps in workforce training to tailoring programs for maximum economic impact and energy savings.

The Working Group meetings are invite-only—and unfortunately, non-utility members of the EE industry currently have little to no direct presence in any of the groups. EEA-NJ sits on two Working Groups: Equity and Workforce Development. Our two seats help us ensure a crucial line of communication between the BPU, the utilities, and our NJ industry members.

To make the most of our two Working Group seats, EEA-NJ created an ad hoc committee for EEA-NJ members that regularly meets to discuss Working Group issues. The ad hoc committee meetings help us formulate insights and recommendations for the Working Groups.

If you’re an EEA-NJ member, you can help shape the future of the EE industry by sharing your opinions, expertise, and insight with the ad hoc committee. Our next meeting, scheduled for 10am on August 13th, will focus on how the Working Groups can address workforce development needs in the EE industry.

Email Business Engagement Manager John Young (jyoung@eeaofnj.org) if you need an invite for this meeting. Can’t make it? Share your thoughts via email instead—just contact Policy Counsel John Kolesnik (jkolesnik@eeaofnj.org). Have something to say, but you’re not an EEA-NJ member yet? Contact John Young to learn more about the many benefits of EEA-NJ membership!

EEA-NJ continues to advocate for greater EE industry inclusion in BPU proceedings. We know that the direct experience of the skilled professionals doing the important work of EE is essential to the success of these programs. And while industry members can’t sit directly on Working Groups, they can make their voices heard in monthly public meetings of the BPU EE Stakeholder Group.

The BPU hosts these meetings and invites attendees to share industry perspectives and stay up-to-date on recent BPU developments. At the last BPU Stakeholder meeting on July 27, we heard for the first time from Dr. Lisa Kumatz of Skumatz Economic Research Associates, Inc., who was named as the new Statewide Evaluator in March. You can register to attend the next BPU EE Stakeholder Group on August 25 at https://www.njcleanenergy.com/committees/energy-efficiency.

Want to learn more about the regulatory landscape for energy efficiency in New Jersey? KEEA and EEA-NJ’s 11th Annual Policy Conference, Forging the Future for Energy Efficiency, features speakers from the NJ Governor’s Office, the BPU, PSEG, NJ Natural Gas, and plenty of other EE leaders and stakeholders. Visit our event website to learn more about the agenda and buy your tickets. Act quickly—Early Bird pricing expires 8/13!

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