Southern California Gas Co. overreported natural gas emission reductions by about 8 million therms in 2017, according to a July 2 consultant report to the California Public Utilities Commission.

SoCal Gas said it reduced natural gas emissions through its energy-efficiency custom projects program by about 18 million therms, but the gas utility actually saved about 10 million therms, the report by SBW Consulting says. The utility counted therm savings from projects installed in prior years, causing much of the discrepancy.

The CPUC only allows therm savings from projects installed in prior years in an annual report if a utility certifies that a delay was due to measurement and verification requirements.

But SoCal Gas said: “The approach which the draft report applies in the database analysis of the installation date discounts the extensive process that custom projects undertake to verify savings prior to the submission of a project claim, which may require projects to be claimed in a year later than the installation year.”

It is unreasonable to assume the work and savings can be claimed within the year, SoCal Gas said, because after being installed, the equipment must be commissioned and brought into full service. For some installations, this can occur quickly, but several weeks is more typical, the utility said.

The report analyzed 2017 energy-efficiency savings for each investor-owned utility in its custom-projects category. Custom projects include energy-efficiency upgrades to facilities in the industrial, agricultural and large commercial sectors.

IOU Overreporting

Reported and corrected energy savings values. Source: SBW Consulting

SBW Consulting reviewed all of the California IOUs’ 4,386 custom projects in 2017, then chose 114 of them to analyze. Although the sample size was small, the selected projects accounted for about 50 percent of the total reported energy savings.

In its report, SBW recommended that SoCal Gas better track project installation dates; provide justification when claims require extensive measurement and verification that spans multiple program years; not claim savings for non-IOU energy, such as electric savings for Los Angeles Department of Water & Power projects; and maintain complete project documentation for gas claims resulting from Southern California Edison projects.

SoCal Gas also said it saved about 31,000 MWh of electricity in 2017, but the report said the utility saved about 15,000 MWh. SoCal Gas is allowed to claim electricity savings, even though it is a gas company, because of something called interactive effects. Interactive effects occur when a device, such an incandescent light bulb, is replaced by a more efficient device, such as an LED.

Sometimes energy savings from one source, such as electricity, cause an increase in usage of another source of energy, such as natural gas. An incandescent bulb, for example, releases more heat than an LED (the hottest outside surface of an LED bulb is often half the temperature of an incandescent of equivalent brightness). Therefore, even though an LED light bulb uses less electricity, it might cause someone to turn on another heat source more often, to make up for the heat loss resulting from the bulb replacement.

The other IOUs—Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and SCE—also overreported energy savings for custom projects in 2017. Combined, the IOUs overreported savings by 14 percent for megawatt-hours, 27 percent for megawatts and 10 percent for therms.

The California Energy Commission set a statewide goal to double energy-efficiency savings for electricity and natural gas end uses by 2030.