New Funding and Formation of Rural Regional Energy Network Offers Energy Efficiency Programs to California’s Underserved Communities

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New Funding and Formation of Rural Regional Energy Network Offers Energy  Efficiency Programs to California’s Underserved Communities 

High Sierra Energy Foundation will be implementing programs in Inyo and Mono counties 

MAMMOTH LAKES, CA, July 17, 2023 — The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), on June 29,  2023, approved the formation of a Rural Regional Energy Network (RuralREN) to expand access to energy efficiency services for customers and communities in rural areas, comprising nearly half the  state. Starting in January 2024, a seven-member partnership, including the High Sierra Energy  Foundation, encompassing public and non-profit agencies with decades of experience implementing  programs in their regions, will collaborate on programs funded by an eight-year investment of more  than $177 million allocated to underserved areas.

The RuralREN will bring energy efficiency programs to underserved and hard-to-reach public,  commercial, and residential customers in 31 rural California counties, which include 66 Federally recognized California Native American Tribal Governments. In collaboration with program  administrator Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), member organizations will serve more than  seven million customers, or 18% of California’s population, spanning over 70,000 square miles.

“The formation of the RuralREN will allow local entities that know their communities and unique  characteristics and obstacles, such as climate zones, languages spoken and socioeconomics, to design  and implement programs tailored to the distinctive needs of local ratepayers,” said Pam Close Bold,  Executive Director of the High Sierra Energy Foundation (HSEF). “Past ratepayer-funded programs  didn’t always equitably serve rural and hard-to-reach customers in our region and a one-size-fits-all  approach simply doesn’t work.”

Approval of the RuralREN is part of a larger investment in energy efficiency as a foundational element  of the CPUC’s energy, environmental, and social justice policies to increase equitable access to energy  efficiency programs for all Californians served by CPUC-regulated entities. “Our decision continues  California’s decades-long commitment to pursuing energy efficiency as the first and best choice for  energy procurement,” said Commissioner Darcie L. Houck in a CPUC press release on the milestone  investment. “I am particularly enthusiastic about the creation of the Rural Regional Energy Network,  which will fill an essential gap in delivering energy efficiency upgrades and training to rural  communities across the state.”

Energy efficiency is an integral part of meeting California’s aggressive decarbonization policies and  goals to combat climate change, yet the most vulnerable of utility customers often do not have  equitable access to utility energy efficiency programs in which they pay into every month. In fact, the average energy burden in the RuralREN region is 45% higher than the rest of California. The  availability of newly funded and locally-implemented programs will help customers access financing  options for energy projects, workforce education and training, energy codes and standards training,  as well as energy assessments, rebates and incentives for cleaner, energy efficient equipment.

RuralREN member organizations include the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments and  County of San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast; the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization in  the San Joaquin Valley; the High Sierra Energy Foundation and Sierra Business Council in the Sierra  Nevada region and the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) in the North Coast, in partnership  with the Lake Area Planning Council and Mendocino Council of Governments. The County of Ventura  is a non-implementing member of the RuralREN leadership team.

The genesis of this effort goes back to 2015 with the formation of the Rural Hard-to-Reach (RHTR)  Working Group, which in 2019 voted to form the RuralREN with RCEA as program administrator.  “RCEA’s selection to head this effort to equitably deliver energy efficiency programs to rural regions  of California demonstrates the innovative thinking and leadership inherent to Humboldt County,” said  Stephen Kullmann, Director of Demand Side Management at RCEA. “By focusing on the rural hard-to reach sector across the entire state and leveraging the expertise of the RuralREN partners, we will be  able to provide services to often-overlooked segments. Rural ratepayers deserve the same level of  service as those in more densely populated areas, even if it requires greater effort. The RuralREN is  created to fulfill that need.”

According to Rick Phelps, HSEF’s Chairperson, “It has been the foundation’s goal since 2005 to better  align programs with local needs and this is a significant shift in the CPUC’s direction away from  programs being designed and implemented by the large investor-owned utilities. The Town of  Mammoth Lakes, City of Bishop and Inyo and Mono counties all provided letters of support for the  business plan and the programs and services developed by the RuralREN will raise awareness about  energy efficiency, provide energy efficiency services to our residents and businesses and provide  transformative career training that leads to clean energy job opportunities.”

About High Sierra Energy Foundation 

The HSEF’s mission is to promote the culture of energy efficiency and sustainability in the Eastern  Sierra. The organization is an implementing agency of the newly formed RuralREN, is a regional  partner for the SoCalREN for public agency and multifamily programs, provides energy-related  outreach for statewide and utility programs, delivers environmental youth education, and  implements the Eastern Sierra Green Business Program. Learn more at

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