After some months of uncertainty predicated by a WUTC staff “investigation” of Puget Sound Energy’s conservation program biennial plan, the Commission approved last week PSE’s conservation target of 70 aMW and $200 million budget. WUTC and Public Counsel had been concerned in at least two major areas, including the overall magnitude of the conservation budget and the fact that the request included plans to expand efforts to influence consumer behaviors as a means to achieve savings. While the utility’s plans to expand its conservation program efforts were plainly indicated throughout 2009 and in previous year’s historical trends, the uncertainty caused by this investigation and time delay in approving a conservation plan played some havoc in the market. Based on the March 24th WUTC decision, that uncertainty is a thing of the past. It is notable however, that a critical regulatory issue remains unsolved – the lost margin to an investor owned utility from its expenditures on conservation. Energy efficiency programs will not escape annual uncertainty until this core issue in the basic business model of the utility is fixed. Stakeholders have pledged to begin to address this issue beginning late Spring of this year. NEEC is very interested in seeing strong regulatory reform occur in this area. Without an underlying business model that supports an investor owned utility’s aggressive conservation acquisition program, this recent uncertainty in the market is destined to be repeated – potentially with a less favorable outcome.