FAQS | Energy Upgrade California

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Energy Upgrade California®?

Energy Upgrade California was a statewide initiative to help Californians take action to use energy better and leverage our natural resources, help reduce demand on the electricity grid and make informed energy management choices at home and at work. It was supported by an alliance of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California Energy Commission, utilities, regional energy networks, local governments, businesses and nonprofits to help communities meet state and local energy and climate action goals. Funding came from investor-owned utility customers under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.

How was Energy Upgrade California created?

On September 18, 2008, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted the state’s first Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, presenting a single roadmap to achieve maximum energy savings across all major groups and sectors in California. This comprehensive plan for 2009 to 2020 is the state’s first integrated framework of goals and strategies for saving energy in the government, utility and private sectors and focuses on using energy better as the highest priority resource in meeting California’s energy needs.

Energy Upgrade California worked to motivate consumers to take action to better manage their energy use. The program strove to increase awareness and education on energy management and facilitated the ability to act and incorporate technological advances or behavior change using all available resources to reduce energy and choose clean-energy options.

Energy Upgrade California ended in December 2021. Thank you to all California residents and small businesses for participating in energy efficiency management activities and conservation measures.

What are Energy Management Tools?

Energy Management Tools, also known as Energy Management Technology, are any product, service or software that allows a customer to better understand and manage electricity or gas use in the home or place of business. They typically are connected to the customer’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (or smart meter) and can include apps that tell you your energy usage, “smart thermostats” and online tools/services supplied by your energy provider.

What is demand response/air conditioner (AC) Cycling?

Air conditioner (AC) Cycling is a subscription-based program for utility customers. Once subscribed, they give their energy provider access to control their air conditioners so ACs can be powered down during times when the grid is close to capacity. During an event period, AC systems are shut down for 15 to 30 minutes every hour, or the thermostat setting is raised by about four degrees.

How can I help save with electric vehicles (EVs)?

Personal cars have been the vehicle of focus, but the electrification of buses, municipal services, boats and planes is now being explored. Special rates and incentives for electric vehicles (EVs) are available. In addition, energy providers are working with multifamily buildings and workplaces to install charging stations.

Does LED lighting save more energy than incandescent lighting?

Yes. LEDs save more than 50% energy over incandescent lighting and last much longer. Federal standards reduce the ability of manufacturers to produce incandescent lights.

What is HVAC?

A heating, ventilation and air conditioning (or HVAC) system is the largest user of energy in a building, so it is important that it be properly designed for the building’s needs and well maintained. HVAC installation and maintenance are done by contractors so it’s crucial to know when to call a contractor, what sort of contractor to look for and what to ask potential contractors.

What is Residential Rate Reform (RRR) and time of use (TOU)?

Residential electricity customers are charged different rates based on how much electricity they consume each billing period. A 2001 California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) decision created five rate tiers, which were consolidated into four tiers beginning in 2009. Over time, the difference between the lower and upper tiers increased dramatically. A 2015 rate reform decision (D.15-07-001) determined that the number of tiers should be reduced to two and that the differentials between the tiers should be lowered. The result is that by 2019, electricity rates will have only two tiers of usage, with the second costing 25% more than the first.

The same decision ordered Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison to default residential customers to time-of-use (TOU) rates in 2019, which means the price of electricity will depend on the time of day when energy is consumed. TOU rates charge customers more when the cost to generate electricity is high (late afternoon and early evening) and less when the cost is low (all other times). This is a system that benefits the electricity grid and allows customers to reduce their bills both by reducing total consumption and shifting consumption to off-peak hours.

What is a home energy efficiency upgrade?

A residential energy efficiency upgrade evaluates all systems in customers’ homes to determine which upgrades can reduce energy use and improve comfort. Some program administrators offer for single family homes, the Home Upgrade or Advanced Home Upgrade Programs. Others offer Multifamily Upgrade programs for buildings with five or more units. Please note that individuals must work with a Participating Contractor. All Participating Contractors and raters are certified and are trained to look holistically at residential energy usage and identify improvements to save the most energy and money. They evaluate the home’s heating, cooling and water heating systems, and recommend upgrades to make the home more energy efficient. Check with your provider to learn about qualifying incentives.

Check online for investor owned utilities or Regional Energy Networks (REN) for offerings on single family residential energy efficiency upgrade program and multifamily residential energy efficiency upgrade program.

The following providers offer a multifamily residential energy efficiency upgrade program:

  • Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)
  • San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)
  • Southern California Gas (SoCalGas)
  • Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN)
  • Southern California Regional Energy Network (SocalREN).

If your provider is not listed, check their offerings as new programs may come online.

What is a backup generator and why is it considered a ‘dirty’ source of energy?

A backup generator is a backup electrical supply that operates automatically when there is loss of mainline power. While they are needed in some essential cases, such as keeping vital medical equipment up and running, most backup generators draw on ‘dirty’ sources of energy for power, such as diesel and propane gas. Unlike ‘clean’ sources of energy such as wind and solar, the non-renewable energy sources used to power most backup generators are harmful for the environment (Note: Some newer models are utilizing solar & batteries, which are considered clean.) In fact, running a backup generator using non-renewable (fossil fuel) energy for an hour can emit as much smog as driving 150 miles!

What if I use my backup generator for commercial purposes?

During an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) notice issued by CAISO, it is actually helpful for commercial entities to use non-renewable backup generators located outside disadvantaged communities when permitted by an Emergency Proclamation issued by the Governor. This is because it helps alleviate usage of the power grid in an effort to avoid a potential rotating outage, in turn helping residential users to keep their power. Residential customers should use less energy during an EEA and refrain from using backup generators unless for essential needs.