Big Efficiency for Small Manufacturing
January 09, 2014 - 9:47 am

By Daniel Trombley, Senior Industrial Analyst

Any serious effort to acquire energy savings from the manufacturing sector will need to address the needs of small and medium-sized manufacturers. While most industrial energy efficiency programs have first exploited efficiencies of scale by tackling the biggest energy users (quite sensibly), that approach overlooks about half of the manufacturing energy consumption in the United States. There’s a lot more savings to be realized by addressing the needs of the small and medium-sized manufacturers who make up 90% of manufacturing establishments (out of nearly 300,000 sites where we’re making things here in the U.S.A.). This is particularly true in heavily industrial states that may be facing the greatest energy resource challenges.

We decided to take a look at what those needs and barriers are, and what programs are currently doing to address them. The result is our newest research report: One Small Step for Energy Efficiency: Targeting Small and Medium-Sized Manufacturers.

We looked at the current suite of more generic program offerings to industry before exploring several programs designed to address the specific needs of smaller manufacturers. There were a variety of success stories in terms of the ways these programs are using energy efficiency to help manufacturers improve their bottom lines. Our report identifies four types of opportunities these programs are taking advantage of:

  • Leveraging trade allies and other trusted partners to reach the manufacturing community;
  • Tailoring energy management offerings to smaller customers, recognizing they are unlikely to have full time staff to dedicate to energy management;
  • Providing financing options such as on-bill financing or property assessed clean energy (PACE)  for investments in energy efficiency; and
  • Making use of existing financial and technical assistance resources such as Department of Agriculture programs or state tax credits to facilitate investments.

Several important lessons emerged from this analysis, including the importance of both building relationships with industrial customers and identifying barriers to investments in energy efficiency at smaller manufacturing sites before designing a program. For more lessons learned, program profiles, and a background on drivers of investments in energy efficiency by small and medium-sized manufacturers, download our report.

Significant Progress on Energy Efficiency in 2013—And 2014 Could Be Even Better
January 07, 2014 - 10:10 am

By Steven Nadel , Executive Director

As 2013 draws to a close, it's useful to reflect back on the past year and look forward to the coming one. Despite political and economic headwinds, the states and federal and local governments continued to make progress on energy efficiency policies in 2013. Among the states, Mississippi and Louisiana decided to begin utility programs, and Connecticut and Maine passed legislation to advance efficiency initiatives. Seven states adopted one of the latest model building energy codes, and eight states signed a memorandum of understanding on actions to put 3.3 million plug-in electric and fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2025.

On the federal level, the Department of Energy and the Office of Management and Budget made real progress on ending the backlog of new equipment efficiency standards, with new standards finalized for distribution transformers and microwave ovens, and many draft standards issued. President Obama announced a climate change action plan that includes a variety of actions to advance efficiency. Bipartisan energy efficiency legislation was reported out of the Senate Energy Committee and was brought to the floor for debate. It has not yet come to a vote since some senators chose to use the floor time to insist on votes on unrelated amendments.

Progress also continues at the local level with many local governments pursuing comprehensive approaches to energy efficiency and some developing new policy and program initiatives. For example, Chicago adopted an innovative policy to improve residential energy use disclosure while also becoming the ninth and most recent U.S. city to require commercial building energy disclosure.

At the macro level, Energy Information Administration data through September of 2013 indicate that both electricity consumption and transportation sector oil use are down relative to the same period in 2011 and 2012. Policies in areas like utility-run energy efficiency programs, equipment and vehicle standards, and investments in alternative transportation infrastructure seem to be having a noticeable effect on electricity and oil consumption

Looking ahead to 2014, the Obama administration has significant opportunities to make progress on energy efficiency without requiring Congress to act. The president's climate action plan includes a number of administrative actions that will take place in 2014, including the release of draft carbon dioxide emissions standards for existing power plants and draft fuel economy standards for heavy trucks.

Final equipment standards are scheduled for a variety of products including electric motors, commercial refrigeration equipment, and residential furnace fans. DOE and HUD are working on several housing initiatives including new energy standards for manufactured homes, new energy efficiency requirements for federally-backed mortgages, and possibly modifications to mortgage underwriting criteria to include consideration of a home’s energy efficiency. Bipartisan energy efficiency legislation also might move in 2014—efforts are underway to bring an improved bipartisan bill to the Senate floor. And work on tax reform is likely to begin.

At the state level, many states will be considering new energy efficiency policies, including possible new rules in Oklahoma, equipment efficiency standards in California, and energy savings targets in Maryland and New York. Many cities are pursuing additional energy efficiency actions to improve sustainability and resiliency at the local level. For example, policies to promote combined heat and power plants are likely to expand as many cities have noticed how these plants helped to keep the lights on at critical facilities in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Here at ACEEE, we anticipate a busy 2014. We’ll be working on the many policies discussed above, publishing more than 30 new reports, and hosting 4 conferences. Our reports will address such topics as new directions for utility energy efficiency, intelligent efficiency, whole building retrofit strategies, and energy efficiency in freight and as an environmental compliance strategy. As for conferences, of particular note is our biennial Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings in August, which will likely sell out this spring as it has in past years. We are also planning our first conference on intelligent efficiency, likely to be held in California in November.

We wish everyone an efficient new year and look forward to working with many of you to move some of these ideas forward in 2014.

Using the ACEEE Field Guide to Utility-Run Behavior Programs
December 19, 2013 - 9:41 am

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

Today ACEEE is releasing the Field Guide to Utility-Run Behavior Programs, the first comparative analysis of programs that focus on changing customer behavior to save energy. 

Many utilities have undertaken behavior-based programs to help meet savings targets set by regulators and their own business needs. Our study counted 281 of these programs, many with multiple iterations, offered by 104 energy providers and third parties between 2008 and 2013.

We managed to sort all these programs into 40 different categories, each of them grounded in the behavioral and cognitive sciences and representing a unique way of affecting consumer behavior. If you zoom out, the program types group themselves into three large families:

Cognition programs focus on delivering information to consumers. They include general and targeted communication efforts, social media, classroom education, and training.

Calculus programs rely on consumers making economically rational decisions. They include feedback, games, incentives, home energy audits, and installation.

Social interaction programs rely on interaction among people for their effectiveness. They involve social marketing, person-to person efforts, eco-teams, peer champions, online forums, and gifts.

We also recommend that program designers "stack" several strategies—at least one from each family—to engage multiple drivers of consumer decision making. For example, a designer might want to combine a home energy report with an audit program using a community-based social marketing approach. Holistic programs that simultaneously appeal to consumers through information, economic incentives, and social interaction are likely to have the greatest impact. 

Why did ACEEE construct this taxonomy? Once each program fits into a single category, it becomes much easier to compare the success of various strategies in changing behavior, as well their cost effectiveness and how much energy they save. Let us know how the Field Guide works for you!

Just in Time for Thanksgiving, A Feast of Energy Savings from DOE’s Proposed New Electric Motor Standards
November 25, 2013 - 4:18 pm

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

Electric motors are about as common in U.S. industry and commercial buildings as roast turkey at Thanksgiving. According to the Energy Information Administration, about one-half of all electricity used by U.S. industry goes to power motors. While electric motors will be far from most Americans' minds this Thursday, it’s worth taking a moment now to be thankful for the feast of energy and dollar savings provided by the strong new motor efficiency standards proposed by U.S. DOE today .

According to today’s proposal, new motors meeting the proposed standards purchased over the next 30 years will save businesses about 1 trillion kilowatt hour and $23 billion. (The U.S. as a whole uses about 4 trillion kWh per year.) Those savings go right to the bottom line, making U.S. industry more competitive. Those electricity savings translate to millions of fewer tons of power sector emissions.

DOE based the proposed standards on a joint recommendation filed with them by manufacturers and efficiency advocates, including ASAP and ACEEE, in August 2012. Two years in the making, the recommendation took an innovative approach: rather than trying to set slightly higher standards for electric motors already covered by two rounds of previous U.S. standards, we recommended that DOE expand the scope of coverage to many motor types not previously regulated.

This approach made sense for both energy savings and for motor manufacturers. For energy savings, establishing standards for unregulated motors would save 3 to 5%, whereas improved standards for already regulated motors would not have packed such an economic punch. With our approach, manufacturers could apply the proven designs they were using in existing regulated motors to additional motor types.

Some of the motors that will see improved efficiency with these standards include gear motors used in equipment like escalators and conveyors, and vertical pump motors used in irrigation and many municipal water and wastewater systems. The proposed standards cover 1 to 500 horsepower motors. (The new standards cover polyphase motors only; residential products use single phase motors, so are not covered by this standard.)

The motors proposal marks another key milestone for DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz’ efforts to catch up on the backlog of overdue standards. DOE has completed four other proposals since August, covering commercial refrigeration, furnace fans, and metal halide light fixtures. The final new motors standards should be completed during the first part of 2014.

Strong new energy saving standards for all of these products completed in 2014 will be more cause for celebration.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this blog post listed the wrong reason for why motors used in residential projects are not covered by this standard. We attributed it to the 1 hp cutoff. Commenter "yetanothergeekguy" pointed out that many homes have 1 hp or greater motors for furnace and a/c fans and pumps. He's right. The reason residential motors are not covered, though, is because the new standards cover only polyphase motors.

ACEEE Establishes Research Advisory Board
November 01, 2013 - 10:36 am

By Maxine Savitz, Research Advisory Board Chair, Liaison to Board of Directors

Policymakers at every level of government, business leaders, designers and implementers of energy efficiency programs, researchers, and advocates have come to depend upon ACEEE’s research to inform and guide their decisions. ACEEE’s Board of Directors and staff are committed to providing research of the highest quality and responsiveness. And, from the first ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings in 1980, the organization has relied upon peer review of conference papers and research reports to ensure the accuracy and relevance of its work.

In recent years, as ACEEE’s research staff has grown to meet the many opportunities emerging in energy efficiency, the organization’s research products have expanded significantly. This increase in both breadth and volume has resulted in greater scrutiny of, and visibility for ACEEE’s research. To contribute to the overall value of ACEEE’s research and its relevance to stakeholders’ needs, ACEEE has decided to establish a Research Advisory Board (RAB). RAB members anticipate that we will provide counsel on relevant and emerging research topics and needs in the energy efficiency field. We will collaborate with ACEEE’s researchers by suggesting enhancements to research and analytical techniques and by offering additional guidance as opportunities and needs emerge.

From my perspective as the Board’s liaison to the RAB, ACEEE has been able to recruit a stellar group of RAB members, preeminent experts in energy efficiency research. The RAB membership reflects the diversity of ACEEE’s research areas from transportation to energy efficiency in buildings and industry, and the policies that shape efficiency programs.

Along with the rest of the ACEEE Board, I look forward to working with the RAB. We appreciate their willingness to give their time to ensure that ACEEE’s research remains at the highest level as ACEEE continues to meet the needs of the energy efficiency community.

Where Does Your Community Stand in the Race to an Energy-Efficient Economy?
October 30, 2013 - 4:39 pm

By David Ribeiro, Senior Analyst

The recently released 2013 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard ranked 34 of the largest U.S. cities on their efforts to save energy—but we don’t think large cities should have all the fun. In order to help other cities see where they stack up, today ACEEE released the Local Energy Efficiency Self-Scoring Tool (Version 1.0 BETA). The tool allows people to score the energy efficiency policies in their own community and to compare them with other localities. For example, sustainability officers can use it to benchmark municipal energy efficiency efforts and help inform future policy decisions, while nonprofit organizations can discover new energy efficiency programs and policy types that they can work to implement in their communities.

Communities derive their score by answering multiple choice questions related to their energy efficiency policies across local government operations, community-wide initiatives, buildings policies, energy and water utility policies, and transportation policies. For instance, if a community has a bike sharing program, that earns them one point. If households have access to a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program, that earns them another two points. By answering these and a series of other straightforward questions, communities can obtain a comprehensive view of the effectiveness of energy efficiency efforts in their community.

To put scores into perspective, the Self-Scoring Tool compares a community’s scores against eight small and medium-sized communities for which policy scores are included in the tool. By allowing users to compare their community to other communities similar in some ways to their own, the tool helps answer the question of what it means to “do well”: Does a score of 60 out of 100 secure a community a spot on the honor roll or reserve it a seat in the summer session of Energy Efficiency 101? The Self-Scoring Tool also analyzes responses to questions and provides a user with immediate feedback regarding where their community is doing the best when it comes to efficiency, where they are doing the worst, and specific metrics to target for improvement.

The Self-Scoring Tool is being released as an open beta version, so ACEEE is looking for feedback from all users of the tool. We welcome comments on the format and functionality of the Self-Scoring Tool and suggestions on possible improvements. Please send all comments to

Intelligent Efficiency: It’s Smart, It Fixes Failures, and It Saves What Otherwise Was Lost
October 24, 2013 - 11:03 am

By Ethan Rogers , Senior Manager, Industry

Intelligent efficiency refers to a systematic approach to saving energy that marries traditional energy efficiency with wireless and cloud-based computer technologies. These technologies enhance our ability to gather, interpret, and act upon energy information in order to improve performance and achieve new levels of energy savings. For example, building management systems can now determine immediately when a boiler or chiller has begun to operate outside of normal parameters and dispatch a service technician to address the problem. Or, production management systems can slow down or turn off equipment in response to the demands of the day, or even the hour.

The energy savings potential from intelligent efficiency is huge—our new report on the topic, Intelligent Efficiency: Opportunities, Barriers, and Solutions, estimates the [no-glossary]economic potential[/no-glossary] of intelligent efficiency and projects that annual energy cost savings for the commercial and manufacturing sectors could exceed $50 billion (our previous report found that intelligent efficiency could reduce the nation’s energy use by 12 to 24 %). In the next two to three decades, these new intelligent capabilities will affect every sector of the economy and bring about energy savings that we are only beginning to understand.

Some of the most vexing problems when it comes to energy efficiency have to do with measuring and verifying (M&V) savings. Maintaining savings after the implementation stage is often challenging as well. However, thanks to advances in information and communication technologies, some of these problems may soon be things of the past. This is because intelligent efficiency measures are smart: they can fix failures and save energy that would otherwise have been lost.

Intelligent efficiency is smart because it achieves new savings through its ability to analyze data and develop new ways to refine our ability to save energy. These “smart” energy measures will be networked and able to harness large volumes of historical data, run parallel simulation modeling, and identify newer, more efficient methods of operating that increase the efficiency of the building or process over time.

Intelligent efficiency also fixes system failures that often otherwise go undetected. For example, building automation and industrial production management systems can identify devices not operating according to specification, or those that are working harder than needed to achieve desired results. Intelligent efficiency has the power to save what otherwise was lost by ensuring that the energy savings resulting from the implementation of an efficiency measure persist over time. Operating conditions are seldom static. What we wanted our systems to do yesterday isn’t what we want them to do today. Additionally, devices can fail and control settings can be changed or bypassed so that, in the months and years following the implementation, the level of energy savings declines. The comparative and anticipatory analytical capabilities of smart devices reduce the amount of time a building or production process spends outside its optimal operating parameters.

Long-term savings of intelligent-efficiency equipped measures (blue) vs. standard commissioned measure (red)

With the ability of automated systems to optimize performance and provide savings performance data in real time, efficiency programs can start including automation projects in their portfolio of eligible projects, realizing lower M&V costs. This could revolutionize energy efficiency programs by enabling them to focus on providing financial assistance for saving energy rather than on purchasing energy efficient equipment. Utility sector efficiency programs, building operators, manufacturers, and equipment vendors have an opportunity to accelerate this transformation through education and demonstration projects, and by working together to overcome technical barriers. Our report identifies examples of where this is already happening, as well as the next steps necessary to increase market acceptance of these technologies.

In the next two to three decades, we will see intelligent efficiency capabilities emerge in every sector of the economy, enabling new levels of energy efficiency. Stay tuned for further research from ACEEE as we continue to qualify and quantify the potential of intelligent efficiency to improve the efficiency of our economy.

5 Key Lessons Learned from the Small Lender Energy Efficiency Convening (SLEEC)
October 22, 2013 - 3:56 pm

By Casey Bell, Senior Economist and Manager, Finance Policy

Over the past several years, the energy efficiency community has worked hard to engage lenders in what is estimated to be a $279 billion market. At ACEEE’s annual Finance Forums, we have witnessed tremendous progress. As we work to mainstream the market, it is important to assess where to focus our efforts to maximize impacts and maintain lender interest and engagement.

Last week ACEEE and Energi Insurance Services, with support from the [no-glossary]Department of Energy[/no-glossary], the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory, hosted the Small Lender Energy Efficiency Convening (SLEEC), a convening of small to mid-size lenders with an interest in participating in the market for energy efficiency investments in commercial, residential, and industrial markets.. The convening brought together about 30 key stakeholders, the majority of whom are actively lending to consumers and businesses looking to make energy efficiency improvements. The lenders shared their motivations for participating in the market, perceived obstacles to energy efficiency lending, and suggestions on possible roles for research, policy, and technical assistance to catalyze market activity.

Five key findings emerged from the discussion:

  1. Non-mission-driven lenders are drawn to energy efficiency because they view it as an opportunity to create a sustainable business model. One participant cited a statistic that 5-10% of residential customers will at some point make energy efficiency improvements. They also view it as a largely untapped market and see a high potential to develop a market niche.
  2. Mission-driven lenders are drawn to energy efficiency by the potential high impact that energy savings could have for their low- and moderate-income customers, particularly those in multifamily housing, and within their communities. Some cited an alignment with their affordable housing mission.
  3. There is a great need for the energy efficiency community and consumers to demonstrate demand for, and show success of, energy efficiency products and services. Lenders are not seeking to “sell loans” but rather to finance services that consumers already want. Connecting lenders with active participants in the community including energy audit firms and contractors could catalyze some additional market activity.
  4. Validation of cash flow from energy efficiency improvements remain a concern for energy efficiency-specific lending products, though non-mission-driven lenders are more likely to focus on the likelihood of loan repayment than certainty about energy savings. These concerns may be mitigated, in part, with increased awareness of existing data projects and products. In addition, the availability of both public sector and philanthropic credit enhancements (e.g., loan-loss reserves), and private sector credit enhancements (e.g., insurance) could be useful in bringing the market to maturity.
  5. There is a lot of great publicly available information about energy efficiency and market opportunity that is targeted toward lenders. This information has been deemed potentially useful, but it is not necessarily reaching this core audience.

The group expressed interest in maintaining and expanding this network of lenders. ACEEE will be working to develop resources and networking opportunities for this group going forward. The complete results of the conversation will be released in an ACEEE white paper in early 2014.

Key stakeholders in the energy efficiency community are seeking to leverage lender input to determine future funding and project priorities. If you are a lender and you are interested in engaging with like-minded institutions as a part of SLEEC, please reach out to Casey Bell at

Today Is the 40th Anniversary of the 1973 Oil Crisis and the Midpoint on the Path to a Truly Energy-Efficient Economy
October 17, 2013 - 10:13 am

By Steven Nadel , Executive Director

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Middle East Oil Embargo. On this day 40 years ago, Middle East oil ministers recommended an embargo against nations supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur war and mandated a cut in oil exports. The embargo and subsequent actions by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) caused oil prices to climb steeply, affecting other energy sources as well and triggering many efforts to improve energy efficiency.

Oil prices subsequently shot up—from about $3 per barrel prior to the embargo, to eventually more than $100 per barrel in 2008, with prices fluctuating since then. These price increases affected not just oil, but also electricity prices (at the time of the embargo, 17% of electricity came from oil) and natural gas prices (since gas can be substituted for oil in many applications).

The higher prices in turn motivated changes in consumer behavior and a variety of policy actions, such as automobile and appliance efficiency standards, the Weatherization Assistance Program to assist low-income households in reducing energy use, the State Energy Program that helps fund state energy offices and their many activities, and dramatically expanded R&D efforts to develop more efficient technologies. As a result of responses to both rising prices and policy actions, as well as technological developments, U.S. energy use patterns have changed. Most significantly, passenger vehicle fuel economy has increased from an average of about 13 miles per gallon in the early 1970s to about 25 miles per gallon for new vehicles today, despite the large increase in the market share of trucks, vans, and sport utility vehicles in recent decades.

More broadly, over the past four decades the United States has become more energy efficient. U.S. energy use increased by just 26%, from 75.6 quads in 1973 to 95.1 quads in 2012, while population grew by more than 50% and GDP (in 2009 dollars) grew from $5.4 trillion to $15.5 trillion. Consequently, energy intensity (energy use per dollar of GDP) dropped by more than half. Had energy growth continued at the rates experienced from post-World War II until 1973, energy use in the United States today would be at least 40% higher than it actually is. In other words, energy efficiency, in effect, is the nation's largest energy resource.

However, we can do much more. A 2012 ACEEE study estimates that if we really set our minds to it, we can reduce energy use in 2050 by 40-60% relative to a business-as-usual scenario, without sacrificing GDP growth. Further improvements include much higher vehicle fuel economy; reduced vehicle miles traveled due to shorter travel distances and less use of cars; and continued efficiency improvements in our factories, commercial buildings, and homes. Standards adopted last year will take us from the present 25 miles per gallon of new vehicles today to roughly 40 miles per gallon (“real-world” value) in 2025. ACEEE estimates that we could reach around 77 miles per gallon for new vehicles in 2050, including extensive use of hybrid, electric, and fuel cell cars. If we act aggressively, by 2050, today may be remembered less as the 40th anniversary of the oil embargo, and more as the midpoint on our path to a truly efficient economy.

Reading the Tea Leaves: End-Use Efficiency and the Clean Air Act
October 11, 2013 - 9:57 am

By Sara Hayes, Sr. Manager and Researcher, Air and Climate Policy

[no-glossary]In late September, the ether was all abuzz with news of EPA’s proposed New Source Performance Standards for regulating carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. Since then, many attempts have been made to read the tea leaves in hopes of predicting what approach EPA will take to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants—the big fish in terms of potential pollution benefits (86% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are energy related).[/no-glossary]

EPA has until June 1, 2014 to propose a rule to regulate these existing power plants. The relevant provision of the Clean Air Act, Section 111(d), allows for flexibility in the way the rule is designed. Flexibility can ensure that the lowest-cost emission reductions are achieved and leave the door open for new and better technologies to play a role in achieving future emission reductions. One of the greatest opportunities that flexibility can allow is end-use energy efficiency. This can help the United States to meet ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets while minimizing the cost of transitioning to a clean energy future. ACEEE’s latest report, Trailblazing Without the Smog: Incorporating Energy Efficiency into Greenhouse Gas Limits for Existing Power Plants , makes a number of recommendations regarding how these regulations should be structured so that the benefits of end-use energy efficiency are realized.

There are a number of unsettled legal questions with regard to how end-use efficiency may be incorporated into a 111(d) rulemaking, but in many cases there are clear and practical implications of one approach over another. Those practical implications create a strong justification for a rule that incentivizes states and power plants to take advantage of end-use energy efficiency resources. ACEEE’s report dives into many of these issues, such as how to measure and verify energy savings and how to determine which energy efficiency policies should get credit under a rule.

When people think of reducing air pollution, many envision installation of control technologies at the end of a smoke stack. End-use energy efficiency avoids the need to generate electricity, eliminating greenhouse gases as well as other pollutants such as mercury and sulfur. Incorporating end-use energy efficiency into a 111(d) rulemaking will reduce the costs of complying with other federal air regulations, helping to ensure that the power sector maintains reliability and that electricity prices remain affordable.