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August 1, 2014 - 9:37am

By Eric Mackres, Manager, Local Policy and Community Strategies

At ACEEE we focus a lot on electricity, electric efficiency programs, and how energy efficiency is the least-cost electric resource. Well, it shouldn’t be a surprise, but there is a parallel and very similar success story for natural gas efficiency. This is important because while most utility sector efficiency programs remain focused on electricity, natural gas programs account for about 18% of efficiency spending nationally and they have recently been a growing share of these growing investments.

At a time when resurgent domestic natural gas production and low natural gas prices are regularly in the news, it can be easy to forget that efficiency programs remain the cheapest and least risky natural gas resource. ACEEE’s recent review of the cost of electric and natural gas utility energy efficiency programs, The Best Value for America’s Energy Dollar, updated the research of a previous study. And guess what? The findings confirm that natural gas efficiency remains the least-cost thermal resource.

The figure below compares the average cost of a therm of saved natural gas from utility programs implemented over eight recent...

July 29, 2014 - 2:30pm

By Ethan Rogers, Senior Manager, Industry

Smart manufacturing, the integration of all facets of manufacturing through the use of information and communication technologies (ICT), is set to transform the industrial sector and its use of energy, raw materials, and labor over the next twenty years. Everyone in a company will have the information they need to make informed, data-driven decisions in real-time. Executives will have will have a panoramic view of productivity and managers will have an in depth view of their production costs, including energy. Given such significant economic potential, it is important for policymakers, economic development organizations, and the energy efficiency community to understand what smart manufacturing is and how it will change energy management in the industrial sector.

Our new report, The Energy Savings Potential of Smart Manufacturing, is designed to show businesses leaders, utility program administrators, and energy managers how to make U.S. manufacturing more energy efficient, productive, and competitive. Picking up where our last report on intelligent efficiency left off, and continuing our examination of the supply chain that was started with a recent white paper on smart freight, we identify the components of smart...

July 24, 2014 - 11:39am

By Therese Langer, Transportation Program Director

Efforts to reduce energy consumption in the transport of goods often run up against the demand for speed, convenience, flexibility, and security. Send a shipment by energy-intensive air or truck if it is valuable or time-sensitive – rail or water will do if it’s not. The fundamental tension in moving goods today is between individualized treatment for each shipment and the efficiency of the system as a whole. But information and communications technologies (ICT) are increasingly offering ways to avoid that tradeoff.

ACEEE’s new white paper, Smart Freight: Applications of Information and Communications Technologies to Freight System Efficiency, explores how ICT can help meet today’s freight performance demands and improve energy efficiency simultaneously. Strategies range from placing freight trucks into electronically controlled platoons, which reduces aerodynamic drag and controls acceleration events, to transmitting product specifications to distributed manufacturing facilities close to the point of use, which can reduce ton-miles traveled and material waste. Other examples demonstrate the vastly increased potential to optimize freight movements by combining shipments of different types from multiple shippers. This means fewer partial loads and empty backhauls, and more opportunities to use intermodal...

July 15, 2014 - 11:12am

By Annie Gilleo, State Policy Research Analyst

Every 5 years, the Florida Public Service Commission is required by the Florida Energy Efficiency Conservation Act to evaluate its energy savings goals and select programs for inclusion in its next 10-year plan. These reviews offer an opportunity for Florida to look back at the past, and forward to the future, and determine just how much energy their programs can save. In recent years, states all over the country have bulked up their energy savings goals, planning for affordable, reliable, clean energy. But Florida seems to be sliding in the opposite direction, as the state’s four primary investor-owned utilities have pushed to significantly scale back their energy savings goals.

All together, Florida utilities propose saving about 480 GWh of electricity over a ten-year period. That’s compared to the more than 6800 GWh of savings they said were cost-effective during the last planning period. If that seems like a dramatic drop in energy efficiency offerings, it’s because it is. The new savings targets are a mere 7% of the old targets. But utilities say it’s all they can do. Well, we here at ACEEE think the future can be brighter for Florida. Here are the arguments for scaling back energy efficiency in the Sunshine State. Look how they shrink when you shine a bright light on them...

July 10, 2014 - 9:36am

By Rachel Young, National Policy Research Analyst

As the World Cup comes to a close, fans are wondering which country will claim the championship. But the World Cup is not the only international competition coming to an exciting end next week. On July 17, ACEEE will release its 2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which will showcase winning energy efficiency policies and programs from around the globe.

This is our second iteration of the International Scorecard and this year we initiated a shakeup of the metrics and the countries included in the report. We added new metrics and improved the scoring. The 2014 International Scorecard will include 31 metrics, covering new topics such as investment in energy efficiency by the private sector, water efficiency, agricultural efficiency, building retrofit policies, and heavy-duty fuel economy standards. We have improved the precision of some of our existing metrics. For example, the industrial energy intensity metric is now weighted to reflect structural differences in economies.

We’ve also added four countries to the official lineup of competitors: India, Mexico, South Korea, and Spain. They’ll join the 2012 veterans, which are Australia, Brazil, Canada,...

July 9, 2014 - 9:40am

By Garrett Herndon, National Policy Research Assistant

On June 2, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made history with the release of the agency’s Clean Power Plan. For the first time, the United States has taken steps toward regulating the emission of greenhouse gases from their largest source: existing power plants. Now that the proposed rule has been published in the Federal Register, the policy wonks of the world have fewer than 120 days to hunker down and process this massive document before comments are due on October 16.

No summer blockbuster is complete without its share of drama. Some were critical before the ink was dry. Others lauded the proposal as a triumph at first glance. Whatever the reaction, it is clear this proposal is a big deal, and 120 days will be a short window to sift through the minutia and develop a clear stance on each detail of the proposal.

For those of us who are proponents of energy efficiency, initial impressions have been mostly positive. In setting the level of emissions reductions required under the proposal, EPA has included...

July 7, 2014 - 2:00pm

By Virginia Hewitt, Local Policy Research Assistant

After work, to unwind, I like to turn on the TV. There is just something about watching people escape from zombies or write 1960s advertising slogans that takes my mind off my day’s work. After I’m all caught up on the soapy cable dramas, though, I get myself into trouble. That’s when I inevitably wind up on reality TV. When I watch a sea of fawning bachelors courting a lone bachelorette, or a young heiress making her way in the business world, it bothers me that these shows fail to truly portray reality. And then I start thinking about work again. If I could create a true reality show, I would call it “So You Think You Can Aggregate Data.”

While reality shows attempt to exhibit “real life,” they rarely wind up looking anything like it. Energy usage data, though? Now THAT is reality. The meter on the side of your house is recording how and when your home is drawing energy. The data reported to the utility by the meter are highly accurate, which is a good thing, because it determines your bill. This is called your “account-level data,” but it can be thought of as your energy usage personality. You can use this information to your benefit! Long-term collection of these data, and proper analysis, can show you and your neighbors where everyone can save energy and lower utility bills. Some electric utilities have hired third-...

June 30, 2014 - 10:24am

By Anthony Fryer, Senior Analyst, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)

On Friday, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a new test procedure for residential and some commercial water heaters. The new procedure addresses a number of longstanding testing issues in order to better replicate real-world usage and to more accurately measure energy consumption across various technologies. Unfortunately, DOE missed an opportunity to ensure that one of the most energy-efficient technologies, the electric heat pump water heater (HPWH), performs as expected in cold temperatures. Regional efforts are underway to address variations in cold temperature performance, but DOE should address this issue soon so that HPWH performance can be accurately measured across the board.

The good news

The new test procedure is designed to more accurately measure the energy consumption of technologies that are becoming increasingly popular, such as tankless, heat pump and gas condensing water heaters. To better simulate consumer use, manufacturers will now be required to test their units using water usage patterns based on water-heater capacity and to heat the water to 125°F (the temperature setting at which units are commonly shipped). These new requirements have been largely derived from extensive field studies (e.g....

June 25, 2014 - 12:12pm

By Joanna Mauer, Technical Advocacy Manager, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)

The Department of Energy (DOE) issued new efficiency standards today that will dramatically reduce the energy use of a little-known home energy hog. Furnace fans, which circulate heated and cooled air throughout a home, consume more than twice the electricity in a year as a typical new refrigerator. The new standards will cut the cost to power furnace fans by about 40% and also deliver improved comfort.

Most furnace fans come as part of a furnace. But in homes with central air conditioning, the fan circulates cooled air during the summer in addition to the heated air during the winter. Furnace fans consume about 1,000 kilowatt-hours per year, or almost 10% of the total electricity use of an average U.S. home. And yet, while the energy use of furnace fans is significantly higher than that of other common home appliances (see below), because furnace fans are inside a furnace, their energy consumption is hidden to most consumers.

Notes: Based on 750 annual operating hours for room air conditioners; 215 cycles per year for dishwashers.

Sources: DOE NOPR Technical Support Document for furnace fan energy use; AHAM Trends in Energy Efficiency 2012 for room air conditioner, refrigerator, and dishwasher energy use.


June 24, 2014 - 9:34am

By David Ribeiro, Research Analyst

If you’ve gone for a jog or visited your neighborhood gym recently, you may have noticed new accessories popping up amid the sea of iPhones and earbuds. There’s a good chance that some of your fellow runners or gym goers have been using wearable performance monitors—like the Fitbit Flex or Jawbone UP—to track their physical activity. Or perhaps you’ve seen a post from a friend on Facebook bragging about their new personal record for fastest mile. The idea behind these devices and apps is simple: the better you track performance, the more knowledge you have to improve your routine. To run that mile faster. To shed those last few pounds. And disclosing your progress on social media not only helps keep you accountable, but also provides encouragement to keep you going.

A similar idea has been applied to buildings over the last several years, although building managers may not have the urge tweet about their new personal energy management records. Several states and cities have implemented energy benchmarking and disclosure policies that require large commercial and multifamily buildings to be evaluated for energy efficiency, and then to disclose those evaluations to consumers. Montgomery County, MD became the most recent addition to this growing group...