Pacific Gas & Electric
PG&E Energy Center
The Pacific Energy Center (PEC) is one of the leading energy centers in the United States, an impressive showcase of technologies and advanced techniques for electric and gas efficiency housed in an attractive 30,000 square foot center that has become a mecca for energy efficiency professionals in the Bay Area as well as an icon of PG&E’s emphasis on customer services. Since the Center opened in late 1991, PEC has become world renowned for its technical capabilities and mission and thus is a potent model for subsequent initiatives.
Located in downtown San Francisco, PEC has been specifically targeted on the design community. In fact, the focus has been even narrower, improving the efficiency of new commercial construction and office spaces. Over time, however, this orientation has been refashioned as PG&E staff realize the tremendous opportunities that exist by working with building owners and facility managers who can expeditiously implement efficiency improvements in existing facilities, providing short-term results while the Center continues its emphasis on avoiding lost opportunities. The Center does include a residential center and rather impressive interactive display in the lobby, though this is not PEC’s main focus. Staff comment, however, that a surprising number of professionals that visit PEC end up taking home literature from the residential display, supporting the notion that energy efficiency begins at home.
PEC staff have forthrightly addressed the challenge of justifying the Center’s cost. So far, PEC has cost PG&E’s ratepayers $14 million. The impact of energy centers is inherently difficult to quantify, while large expenditures are subject to intense scrutiny. PEC has carefully documented the more than 30,000 visitors it has hosted, while evaluating the Center using the perspectives of utility representatives and visitors. This intense self-examination has been helpful for PEC to continue to refine its focus to provide maximum benefit for PG&E customers, especially in this time of greater utility competition.
In the future, PEC and other energy centers will be further adapted to competition. Rather than fostering energy efficiency in particular, they will likely encourage the wise use of their principle product and may encompass a wider variety of services including power quality management and environmental compliance. Energy centers may even charge for the use of their facilities and technical services, or allow financing the cost of their services on utility bills, another means of establishing a firm handshake with customers. Thus energy centers can play an important role in a utility’s overall marketing and corporate strategy, a theme that is embedded throughout this Profile.
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