West / Regional Reports

Survey Says: Energy Costs Still Top Concern

December 27, 2001
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SAN DIEGO, CA — About two-thirds of California businesses polled say that they have a “generally negative” feeling about deregulation in the state and more than 80% cite the cost of energy as a top concern, according to a recent survey conducted statewide.

The survey also revealed that more than three-quarters of businesses polled are displeased with the suspension of direct-access Sept. 20 by the California Public Utilities Commission. Under California’s original electric deregulation plan, a direct-access provision allowed business and residential customers to purchase electricity from alternative energy service providers outside of their local utility, typically at a lower price.

In the wake of the suspension of direct-access, 77% of businesses polled say energy efficiency now is “very important” to them and many are actively seeking out companies to develop potential energy-saving opportunities in diverse building types and locations. In addition, they are seeking help from energy service providers to implement strategies that will allow them to capitalize on cost-control measures, energy-pricing opportunities and reduced market risk.

Market Strategies, a Detroit-based marketing research firm, conducted the survey Oct. 29-31, 2001, polling energy management professionals from the manufacturing, transportation, retail, public administration, education, and healthcare industries. Commissioned by Sempra Energy Solutions, a retail energy services company that markets to commercial and industrial customers nationwide, the survey focused on businesses throughout the state with an annual electric bill of about $500,000.

“It's understandable that businesses are now struggling to cope with the re-regulation of the California electricity market and suspension of direct access,” said Mark Camack of Market Strategies. “The survey shows that customers are exploring their options in energy-efficiency improvements as the principal way to control their energy costs.”

NEW PROGRAM OFFERED

Responding to this renewed demand by California businesses for energy-efficiency services, Sempra Energy Solutions said it has launched “Sempra PowerSave,” a new program designed to “combine traditional energy-efficiency analysis with innovative real-time tools to provide a new level of understanding about potential energy savings.”

Bob Dickerman, president of Sempra Energy Solutions, estimates that, for most businesses, energy savings could be as high as 45% and that the necessary changes can be identified within a two-week period.

“Clearly, California customers know that controlling their energy consumption is critical to the bottom line,” said Dickerman. “The survey demonstrates that, with companies now facing fixed market prices and no ability to secure their own commodity deals, they need to focus on making changes that reduce consumption — changes that pay off very rapidly.”

Some improvements businesses can implement for quick savings include substituting antiquated lighting systems with newer, more efficient ones and replacing standard electric motors with premium-efficiency motors on equipment, such as exhaust fans, water-chilling and heat pumps, and vacuum and pool pumps. Large businesses also can utilize real-time controls on equipment, such as hvacr systems, elevators, and escalators.

“Executives responsible for energy management understand that the more precisely they can control and forecast power needs, the easier it is for them to save money,” said Dickerman. “By implementing energy-efficiency programs today, companies will be better positioned to make the right decisions, when direct access returns to California.”

Publication date: 01/01/2002

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