Collaboratives for energy efficiency have a long and successful history and are currently used, in some form, in more than half of the states. Historically, many state utility commissions have used some form of collaborative group process to resolve complex issues that emerge during a rate proceeding. Rather than debate the issues through the formality of a commission proceeding, disagreeing parties are sent to discuss issues in a less-formal setting and bring back resolutions to the commission. Energy efficiency collaboratives take this concept and apply it specifically to energy efficiency programs—often in anticipation of future issues as opposed to reacting to a present disagreement.
Energy efficiency collaboratives can operate long term and can address the full suite of issues associated with designing, implementing, and improving energy efficiency programs. Collaboratives can be useful to gather stakeholder input on changing program budgets and program changes in response to performance or market shifts, as well as to provide continuity while regulators come and go, identify additional energy efficiency opportunities and innovations, assess the role of energy efficiency in new regulatory contexts, and draw on lessons learned and best practices from a diverse group. Details about specific collaboratives in the United States are in the appendix to this guide. Collectively, they demonstrate the value of collaborative stakeholder processes in producing successful energy efficiency programs.
Initial collaborative efforts were primarily focused on program design. As comprehensive, sophisticated programs have evolved, so too have the purpose, usefulness, and focus of collaboratives. Today, new issues driven by technology are emerging and must be appropriately incorporated into program design and operation. Increasingly, customers as a group are seen as a vital and strategic, demand-side power sector resource with distinct advantages over other resources. States with energy efficiency collaboratives are likely to find themselves better able to respond to these trends and utilize this resource. This guide will hopefully inform and provide context for decision makers as they design new or improve existing energy efficiency collaboratives.