TURN Urges Customers Not to Sign Up for PG&E’s ClimateSmart

Customers seeking to make a difference by reducing their carbon footprint should reduce energy consumption or purchase greenhouse gas reduction credits elsewhere because PG&E will have to pay for the reductions that haven’t been purchased by ClimateSmart customers.

For Immediate Release From The Utility Reform Network

PG&E’s ClimateSmart is a ratepayer funded marketing program that endeavors to convince customers to pay a premium on their electric bill in order to purchase greenhouse gas reductions. Enrollment has been more than 80% below established goals, with marketing costs in 2009 of approximately $500 per new customer subscription. Since July of 2008, the program has lost over 3,400 customers.

Despite the tepid consumer response to the program, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today authorized customer funding of another $5.6 million over TURN’s objections. TURN said that further spending on ClimateSmart is not only a bad deal for consumers, it’s a bad deal for the environment as well.

TURN Staff Attorney Matt Freedman said that due to protections won by TURN "shareholders are responsible for meeting minimum ClimateSmart greenhouse gas reduction goals of 1.36 million metric tons even if the program fails to achieve that through customer subscriptions. At this point," Freedman said," the only benefits to giving PG&E another $5.6 million are the marketing benefits to PG&E, since no one expects enrollment levels to change dramatically. Every dollar customers pay for greenhouse gas reductions under this program means another dollar in profits for PG&E."

Customers seeking to make a difference by reducing their carbon footprint should reduce energy consumption or purchase greenhouse gas reduction credits elsewhere. "Because PG&E will have to pay for the reductions that haven’t been purchased by ClimateSmart customers, ultimately there will be greater benefits to the environment if customers buy offsets elsewhere."

Freedman noted that PG&E failed to identify any significant changes to their marketing strategies other than the greater use of social networking sites like Facebook. Recent postings on the ClimateSmart Facebook page (Sept. 1-Oct. 18) defended PG&E’s response to the San Bruno explosion rather than promoting greenhouse gas reductions. After TURN pointed out the improper use of the ClimateSmart Facebook page in comments to the CPUC, PG&E deleted the postings and the CPUC ordered PG&E not to use ClimateSmart marketing for image rehabilitation.