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April 24, 2014 - 4:45pm

By Andrew deLaski, Executive Director, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)

The struggle for improved gas furnace efficiency standards may have an end in sight. Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit approved a settlement between the Department of Energy (DOE) and an industry trade group. In the settlement, DOE agreed to pull back efficiency standards completed in 2011 and develop new standards in their place within two years. This new rulemaking represents another opportunity to set strong furnace standards which will save energy and cut consumers’ heating bills.

Since DOE based the 2011 standards on a recommendation jointly filed by efficiency advocates and furnace manufacturers, we are disappointed at the delay in efficiency improvements. But, with litigation threatening to tie up not only the new furnace standards, but also new standards for heat pumps and air conditioners, DOE’s decision to redo the furnace standards now makes sense. Previously announced central air conditioner and heat pump standards will take effect next January, as planned.

Improved furnace standards are more important than ever

Heating is the single largest household energy expense in the U.S. ( About 40% of non-transportation energy costs.) Since heat is a necessity,...

April 22, 2014 - 10:43am

By Rachel Cluett, Research Analyst

There are many tips out there about saving energy in your home. So many, in fact, that it can leave you wondering, “Well, what are the things that I should focus my attention on to really cut down on energy use and energy bills?” In my former job as an energy auditor, one of the most frustrating things I encountered was hearing the many misconceptions about how energy is used in the home. This old conventional wisdom really confuses honest efforts to cut down on energy use and lower monthly utility bill payments. It is hard to know what changes really make a difference with so many tips to choose from—especially when most of us don’t get any feedback to track our progress until the energy bill shows up almost a month later.

In the spirit of Earth Day, ACEEE offers our top picks for energy saving tips that provide real savings opportunities for people willing to commit a little effort. We hope to foster a better understanding of not only how you can reduce energy used in your home, but also how much you can expect to save.

Take action with the following tips that are geared to the hot summer months. (Hey, we can dream that it’s almost summer, right?) More and more utilities are introducing Web portals that show customers how much energy they use. Be sure to check with your utility to see if they provide this service so that you can track how you...

April 17, 2014 - 9:13am

By Eric Mackres, Local Policy Manager and Senior Researcher

Energy efficiency is increasingly viewed as an essential element of community development, and is arguably becoming the most appreciated and integrated “green” topic in the field. For example, a growing number of state housing finance agencies actively encourage the inclusion of energy-efficient features in the properties in which they invest.

The recent “Green Issue” of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Community Development Investment Review focuses almost exclusively on energy efficiency programs, policies, and practices, and their connection to place-based asset building, health, and...

April 16, 2014 - 11:27am

By R. Neal Elliott, Associate Director for Research

A lot of analysis of the impacts of the SB 310 legislation in Ohio, particularly on the state’s economy, has been in the news lately. Many of these assessments, including those from ACEEE, have focused mostly on employment numbers. But numbers are relatively abstract, and we need to remember that these numbers represent workers and their families. Several conversations at our recent Market Transformation Symposium with implementation contractors working in neighboring Indiana brought this home to me.

Last month, Indiana canceled their energy efficiency programs, and many contractors running programs in the state have already begun the process of laying off staff. In a recent letter to leaders of the Indiana Senate, six companies that help customers cut down on energy waste reported the impacts of canceling the programs. The letter states that about 381 jobs directly related to the programs will be lost, and an additional 1,200 jobs associated with supporting these programs will also vanish. It’s...

April 14, 2014 - 3:44pm

By Siddiq Khan, Senior Researcher

Last week a National Research Council (NRC) committee on heavy-duty vehicles released a report on technological, market, and regulatory factors relevant to the upcoming Phase 2 heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse emissions standards. One reason to pay attention to this report is that the first phase of the heavy-duty standards, adopted in 2011 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), drew extensively from the National Research Council heavy-duty committee report released in 2010.

The new report contains several recommendations in line with ACEEE’s priorities for the Phase 2 program. The committee recommends bringing trailers, especially all new 53-foot (and longer) dry van and refrigerated van trailers, into the regulation. These two categories encompass more than 70% of all trailers in the market. This would be an important advance from the Phase 1 program that could deliver at least 10% additional fuel savings for tractor-trailers.

Other committee recommendations address vehicle testing issues. Due to the substantial cost of physically testing vehicles, the certification process relies heavily on...

April 14, 2014 - 10:27am

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

New energy-saving standards for certain types of incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs proposed by the Department of Energy (DOE) last Friday mark another important step in improving lighting efficiency in the United States. DOE’s proposal further advances strong standards completed in 2009. Together, the 2009 standards and the proposed increases announced last week dramatically improve reflector lamp and fluorescent tube lamp efficiency by 70% and 23% respectively. Unfortunately, a congressional budget rider prevents DOE from saving even more.

Friday’s proposal covers incandescent reflector lamps, the cone-shaped light bulbs used in track lighting and recessed light fixtures, and fluorescent tube lamps, which are ubiquitous in office buildings. The sheer number of these light bulbs in use means that even modest efficiency improvements will yield large national energy savings. DOE estimates that in 2012 manufacturers shipped about 80 million reflector lamps covered by standards. And based on DOE data, almost 20% of all commercial-sector electricity use goes to power fluorescent tube lamps.

New standards build on previous improvements

DOE estimated...

April 10, 2014 - 2:54pm

By Casey Bell, Senior Economist and Finance Policy Lead

The moment we have been waiting for has arrived! The Warehouse for Energy Efficiency Loans (WHEEL), a financing platform that will open the market for energy efficiency investment to institutional investors, is open for business. WHEEL acts as a virtual financial warehouse for relatively small individual loans, holding them until there are enough loans to attract attention from large investment houses. These transactions will potentially grow the market and make it easier for homeowners to find lower-cost loans for energy efficiency improvements.

Bonds are created for investors through a $100 million asset-backed securities medium-term note program that can be replenished and resold. The platform was formed by a public-private partnership consisting of collaborators from AFC First Financial, Citi, the Pennsylvania Treasury Department, Renewable Funding, the Energy Programs Consortium, the National Association of State Energy Officials, and the U.S. ...

April 9, 2014 - 1:34pm

By R. Neal Elliott, Associate Director for Research

The state of Ohio is poised to take a major step backwards if its legislature enacts SB 310. The bill would gut what has been a successful energy efficiency policy that has saved ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars so far, and would save even more in the future. The passage of SB 310 would set a very bad precedent, and would lead to higher electricity bills and electricity rates for customers.

Last year ACEEE analyzed the impacts of Ohio’s current energy efficiency policy and found that the state’s utility energy efficiency targets (established under the bipartisan legislation SB 221 in 2008) would save customers a total of almost $5.6 billion from avoided energy expenditures and reduce wholesale energy and capacity prices through 2020. Today ACEEE released a report that takes a look at state energy efficiency resource standards (EERS) around the nation, which finds very positive to-date results for Ohio. The report documents that through 2012, Ohio’s utility efficiency programs have achieved over 150% of the savings targets set in SB 221, saving customers even more than projected. Based on evaluations filed with the Public Utility Commission of Ohio, these energy savings have come at a fraction of the cost of new generation...

March 20, 2014 - 1:53pm

By Susan Mazur-Stommen, Behavior and Human Dimensions Program Director

The ACEEE Field Guide to Utility-run Behavior Programs, released in December, is the first comparative analysis of utility-run behavior programs. Practitioners, evaluators, and regulators can now use the guide to design and assess strategies and develop policies for utility-run behavior programs. The problem has been that, when state and local stakeholders thought about creating behavioral programs, they would encounter barriers. These barriers could include questions about cost effectiveness, or the high degree of uncertainty and confounding factors that surround dealing with human behavior. At the same time, and potentially tipping the balance in favor of behavioral programs, many states are looking for new ways to reach the savings targets they have set, and behavior programs are enticing as a cost effective way to reach significant energy savings.

The Field Guide attempts to answer some of these questions. The main takeaways from the report for regulators and state energy officials are that: 1) behavior programs can be just as cost-effective as other EE programs, 2) behavior programs are diverse in type and effect, and 3) different behavior programs can suit the varied needs of investor-owned utilities, municipal utilities, and co-operatives. Behavior programs are within range of most energy-efficiency programs; while only a...

March 19, 2014 - 9:34am

By Christopher H. Russell, Visiting Fellow, Industry

Energy service outsourcing is a business relationship that relieves a large facility from the potential distractions imposed by the ongoing management of one or more energy functions, such as steam, compressed air, water treatment, lighting, or other activities. In essence, a facility would transfer these functional duties to a vendor per a contractual agreement, subject to periodic renewal. The facilities that choose this route anticipate that their energy functions will be performed in a more reliable and cost-effective way by the vendor. Surprisingly, although these services have existed in the market for many years, many in the industrial sector are unaware of them or unsure how to take advantage.

The industrial energy efficiency program sector is also largely unaware of these market-based solutions. This is unfortunate, because U.S.-based manufacturers in 2006 acquired $156 billion dollars’ worth of energy to transform raw and intermediate materials into finished products. Of that total value, $80 billion was lost through inefficient conversion and use—thus providing a first-cut estimate of the market for energy service outsourcing. Forward-thinking program administrators are now looking to outsourcing as a method to effectively boost customer investments in energy efficiency while improving system reliability.

One approach is for these administrators to...