Why utilities are investing in this technology as a way to boost resiliency and reduce consumer costs
What if there was a technology your utility could deploy today that was cheaper and cleaner than most existing power generation, that boosted system resiliency and reliability, and was twice as efficient? Would you want them to use it?
Ask just about anyone involved in the utility energy efficiency industry where the best utility system integrated resource planning (IRP) is conducted, and they’ll say it’s the Pacific Northwest. And ask anyone familiar with that work what name comes to mind in connection with that effort, and it’s Tom Eckman.
Electric energy efficiency programs have grown substantially in the last ten years. As they’ve grown, leaders have emerged. In our new report, Big Savers: Experiences and Recent History of Program Administrators Achieving High Levels of Energy Savings, we showcase 14 of these leaders. The report is not an exhaustive review of every leading utility or program administrator, nor is it a ranking system. Instead, we tell the story of these 14 through analysis of performance data and discussions with program managers.
There are over 25 million small enterprises that form the backbone of our national economy. They are critical to the health of local economies, generating well over half of net new private-sector jobs, according to the US Small Business Administration. Many are home-based firms with few employees, but many also occupy commercial retail space. The small business sector uses over 30% of all commercial space, more than 20 billion square feet of buildings to be heated, cooled, and lit up.
We tend to talk about energy savings in two ways. There is the total annual impact of savings, made up of layers of savings from programs implemented in the past but still saving energy today, and there are incremental savings, or savings attributed to new programs implemented in a given year. At ACEEE, we track incremental savings within our State Energy Efficiency Scorecard.
Many people groan when they see their utility bill spike after a cold February, but for some it is more than just an annoyance. Imagine if you had to under-heat your home during that cold February because you knew you wouldn’t be able to afford the utility bill. Imagine if you didn’t realize how much it would cost to heat your home to a comfortable temperature, and are now stuck with a bill larger than you can afford.
Utilities have options when it comes to meeting customer demand for electricity. They can build power plants to convert fossil fuels to energy. They can capture renewable resources like solar and wind. And they can work with residents and businesses to lower demand by implementing energy efficiency programs.
Energy efficiency improvements provide value over and above utility bill savings. ACEEE’s new report Recognizing the Value of Energy Efficiency’s Multiple Benefits describes the gains outside of energy savings created by energy efficiency improvements. Many of these benefits accrue to residential and business energy consumers. Additional benefits accrue in the form of cost reductions to the utility system, resulting in lower costs for all customers.
California has long been an energy efficiency leader, topping ACEEE’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard from 2006–2010 and ranking #2 since then. But like many states, California would much prefer to be #1 and has been upping its game, achieving a “most improved” grade in our 2015 Scorecard and trailing the #1 state by only half a point.
Today, Commonwealth Edison, several smart thermostat manufacturers, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center announced a major new initiative with a target to install one million smart thermostats in the homes of Commonwealth Edison customers over five years. Commonwealth Edison (commonly called ComEd) serves northern Illinois, including the Chicago metropolitan area.