Finding Common Ground Among Public Interest Advocates
Energy efficiency (EE) is generally recognized as a least-cost option. However, the details of designing programs do not always lend themselves to easy consensus. These details include program size, cost recovery mechanisms, lost revenues, cost-allocation, and incentives. Adding other clean energy options to the agenda makes consensus seem even more difficult. Environmental groups, conscious of global warming, seek to replace high fossil fuel consumption with alternate solutions, like EE. Consumer groups worry that upfront costs will impact vulnerable populations that cannot afford their bills.
Last year, the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), Sierra Club (SC), and National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) launched the Finding Common Ground (FCG) project with the goal of sparking more dialogue between consumer and environmental advocates. The goal was to promote a better understanding of each group’s concerns and help develop areas where the groups can build consensus and work together. Consumer and environmental advocates have convened two summits aimed at facilitating constructive dialogue. Subject matter working groups have met, and webinars have been conducted. Further, collaboration has occurred among some of the Participants on issues like weatherization funding, on-bill financing, advocating for efficiency as a transmission alternative, etc. This paper discusses ways to develop common ground, key advocate issues and concerns, and lessons learned about developing consensus among public interest advocates. The second part of the paper addresses the authors’ views about where to find common ground on issues.