ACEEE Blog

Tribute to Art Rosenfeld: our founder, leader, mentor, and friend
October 08, 2014 - 3:28 pm

By Glee Murray, Senior Director for Outreach


Anniversaries serve to remind us where we’ve come from, how much we’ve accomplished, and where we’re headed. What better way to launch ACEEE’s 35th anniversary as an organization (coming up in 2015) than by paying tribute to Dr. Arthur Rosenfeld, who was instrumental in our creation and guides our vision still? Art is our founder and is currently distinguished scientist emeritus at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and professor emeritus of physics, University of California, Berkeley.

We asked seven leaders in the energy efficiency community to help us make a video honoring Art at our recent Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. The stories they told and the history they shared with the sold-out crowd inspired Art to deliver an impromptu remembrance to “1,000 of his closest friends,” as he put it. He recalled the pivotal point in his career when he shifted from high-energy physics to developing the field that became energy efficiency. And, yes, his mesmerizing present-at-the creation story about the origin of ACEEE involved Jimmy Carter and that dang sweater!

We are indebted to these seven energy efficiency luminaries for sharing their memories and heartfelt thoughts about Art in the tribute video:

Many thanks to all of you. And thanks to everyone who participated in this year’s Buildings Summer Study, the biggest in our history, for making it so successful.

See you in 2016!


The time has come for our first Intelligent Efficiency Conference
October 08, 2014 - 10:00 am

By Ethan Rogers , Program Director, Industry


Efficiency has become intelligent. We’ve always known that waste is stupid and that efficiency is smart, but now, many energy measures can learn, adapt, and self-optimize. It’s called “intelligent efficiency,” and it’s going to transform how energy efficiency is provided, achieved, and measured. We’re so excited about its potential that we are hosting an entirely new conference on the subject in November. The first ACEEE Intelligent Efficiency Conference will be held on November 16 - 18, at the Hyatt Regency – Embarcadero, San Francisco. Speakers will include experts and thought leaders from the information and communication technologies (ICT), energy efficiency, utility, and end-user communities. We’re expecting this to be a big ICT-energy efficiency matchmaking event that will facilitate intelligent efficiency going mainstream!

If you’d like to learn more about intelligent efficiency and our conference, we are hosting a webinar on October 21st. In this webinar, Chris Hankin of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) will moderate a panel comprised of Indy Ratnathicam, marketing and strategy director for FirstFuel, Jeff Kramer, executive director of strategic alliances and public policy for Verizon, and me. We’ll talk about how intelligent efficiency is going to transform energy use in buildings, communities, transportation systems, and factories.

You can also learn more about intelligent efficiency through our reports and those by others covering this space. Our first report, A Defining Framework for Intelligent Efficiency, examined the scope and purpose of intelligent efficiency. The second one, Intelligent Efficiency: Opportunities, Barriers, and Solutions, examined the economic benefits in the commercial and manufacturing sectors. Earlier this year, ACEEE transportation program director Therese Langer published Smart Freight: Applications of Information and Communications Technologies to Freight Systems , which examines intelligent efficiency in moving freight. And this summer I finished a ten-month deep dive into how smart manufacturing saves energy with The Energy Savings of Smart Manufacturing report. Steven Lacey of Greentech media, who has also covered this issue extensively, released a report called Intelligent Efficiency: Innovations Reshaping the Energy Efficiency Market last summer. By the way, he’s bringing the Energy Gang to our conference and will be taping a podcast as part of our lunch presentation.

For more information on the webinar, visit: http://www.aceee.org/conferences/2014/ie/webinar

To register for the Intelligent Efficiency Conference in San Francisco next month, visit: http://aceee.org/conferences/2014/ie/registration


Better information will transform energy use in multifamily buildings
September 30, 2014 - 2:16 pm

By Lauren Ross, Manager, Local Policy


When ACEEE launched the Multifamily Energy Savings Project two years ago, we offered one of the first estimates of potential energy savings – $3.4 billion – for multifamily buildings, a traditionally underserved market. Since then, we continue to report on opportunities and challenges for achieving these savings. Recently, there’ve been a few major wins for the multifamily community that are expected to make it easier for building owners and financiers to make investments in energy efficiency.

Last month, Fannie Mae released the first nationally representative sample of energy and water data for multifamily properties across the United States. The Multifamily Energy and Water Market Research Survey provides an insight into multifamily buildings’ annual spending on energy and water as well as other important trends and metrics. The report also responds to the lack of information on energy use in submarkets in the multifamily sector by providing separate breakdowns for affordable and market-rate units, tenant and owner-paid utility bills, and by building size and other important building features.

The report also reinforces what many have speculated in recent years – the multifamily sector remains an untapped opportunity for energy efficiency. According to the survey results, the least efficient buildings might be spending upwards of $165,000 more per building in annual energy costs than comparable buildings operating at a much higher efficiency.

In addition to providing the most comprehensive, national multifamily energy and water use data to date, the survey also serves as the basis for the long-anticipated EPA ENERGY STAR® score for multifamily buildings . The 1 - 100 ENERGY STAR score is a simple way for multifamily building owners to understand their property’s energy performance over time, compared to its peers. This information can also be made available to tenants who are interested in the energy efficiency of their building or prospective tenants.

Proponents for the multifamily ENERGY STAR score expect to see the kind of benefits that have been demonstrated in commercial and industrial buildings. The single score for these buildings, introduced in 1992, is responsible for helping thousands of building owners assess their building’s energy performance and identify ways to save energy, according to the EPA. That’s resulted in over $230 billion in savings on utility bills and preventing more than 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

While Fannie Mae’s recent developments give multifamily building owners information to identify opportunities for reducing energy costs, it’s not enough. Complimentary efforts are needed to ensure the owners have resources, like utility incentives and financing, to support capital investments for improved efficiency. ACEEE’s Multifamily Utility Working Group supports this effort by engaging over 30 utilities around the country to improve or expand their multifamily programs. Our report, Apartment Hunters: Programs Searching for Energy Savings in Multifamily Buildings, provides 10 best practices for designing and implementing successful multifamily programs while addressing common challenges and opportunities for cost-effective energy savings in the multifamily sector.

This December, ACEEE and Energi Insurance Services will also be hosting a special multifamily convening of its Small Lender Energy Efficiency Community (SLEEC), a community of small to mid-size lenders with an interest in participating in the market for energy efficiency investments. This engagement will build on ACEEE’s previous work to assess lender needs for participation, particularly in traditionally underserved markets. There will be a particular focus on the potential roles of technical assistance, policy, research, and private sector product development. We will be highlighting our efforts in building and developing this community and resources for lenders in a future blog post.

We have come a long way in terms of learning more about energy use and trends in this market and recent developments indicate continued success in reaching multifamily customers. Fannie Mae’s efforts, as well as the work of others, like the peer-exchange communities convened by ACEEE, are helping to collect, analyze, and share the information needed to transform the way multifamily buildings use energy.


How your refrigerator has kept its cool over 40 years of efficiency improvements
September 11, 2014 - 11:21 am

By Marianne DiMascio, Outreach Director, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)


One of the great inventions of our time – the modern refrigerator – will get an efficiency makeover when new national efficiency standards go into effect on September 15, reducing energy use of most refrigerators and freezers by about 20-25%. The new standards take effect 100 years after the first modern refrigerators were mass-produced for general use. Before that time, consumers used iceboxes (literally boxes with ice) to keep their food cold, but food safety was an issue. When the ‘electric refrigerator’ was finally introduced it was more than just a convenience, it was an invention that saved people’s lives. (See this 1926 advertisement from the Electric League of Pittsburgh). Refrigerators have evolved considerably since the 1900s both in appearance and function. The early units placed the cooling device on top of a small boxy unit while today’s sleeker multi-door units place the cooling units unseen on the bottom.

The new efficiency measures are the latest in a series of standards over 40 years that have helped to significantly bring down the cost of running a typical refrigerator. A fridge that just meets the new standards will use $215 to $270 less per year in electricity than a comparable unit that met the first state standards set in 1978.

The refrigerator story is filled with intriguing plot lines – from the initial energy crisis in the ‘70s, to negotiations between disparate groups of stakeholders, to national legislation signed by President Reagan in 1987. It’s a good story packed with positive outcomes. The graph below gives a birds-eye view of some of the changes over the last 40 years. While energy use decreased more than three-fourths, refrigerator volume increased, and price (in $2010) decreased by two-thirds.

Energy crisis sparked change: The energy crisis in the 1970s marked the beginning of the end for energy-wasting refrigerators. Between 1947 and 1974, average energy use of refrigerators had shot up from less than 400 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year to more than 1800 kWh per year, earning it the title of the “most energy-thirsty appliance in the family home.” When the energy crisis struck, California responded by passing forward-looking legislation. In 1976, the newly formed California Energy Commission (CEC) set the first-ever efficiency standards for refrigerators, requiring all units sold in the state to meet maximum energy usage levels. The CEC updated the refrigerator standards two times in the ‘80s. These standards, along with technological advances (blown-in foam insulation for one), reduced refrigerator energy use from its 1970s peak.

Early standards led to collaboration among stakeholders: Eyeing California’s success, other states, including Massachusetts and New York, adopted state standards. Manufacturers, wary of a patchwork of state standards, worked with efficiency advocates and consumer groups to come up with consensus standards that were eventually included in national legislation, adopted by Congress, and signed by President Reagan in 1987. Since that time, DOE has updated the national refrigerator standards three times. The collaboration between stakeholders continues—the standards taking effect this month are based on a joint recommendation that manufacturers and efficiency advocates submitted to DOE in 2010.

Standards spurred innovation: As several rounds of state standards and three rounds of national standards were adopted over the 40-year period, manufacturers met the efficiency levels with innovations and technological advances. To meet the newest efficiency levels, manufacturers will likely use additional insulation improvements, higher efficiency compressors, improved heat exchange in the evaporator and condenser, and more efficient fan motors.

As quality, efficiency, and number of features went up, the price went down: Along with the efficiency upgrades, manufacturers have maintained or improved performance and added many new features. An April 2014 Consumer Reports article called “ The Refrigerator Features You Can’t Live Without ” says, “We’re seeing more refrigerators that are excellent at maintaining consistent temperatures and saving energy.” The article also notes that the “future is in features” with such items as door-in-door compartments, pull-out drawers for deli meats and cheese, high-capacity ice makers, and even sparkling water dispensers. A 2012 ACEEE/ASAP report, Better Appliances: An Analysis of Performance, Features, and Price as Efficiency Has Improved, found that as standards were implemented, temperature performance improved, new features were added, annual energy use declined by 50%, and refrigerator price decreased by 35% between 1987 and 2010.

Consumers wanting to save even more than what is achieved by the new standards can select refrigerators bearing the ENERGY STAR® label to save another 10% or more. Buyers can consult the yellow Energy Guide labels affixed to products for an estimate of average product energy use.

The efficiency story does not end here. Energy savings from more efficient refrigerators will continue to grow as consumers replace their old inefficient products. DOE estimates that the new efficiency standards will save nearly 5 quads of energy over 30 years, or enough to meet the total energy needs of one-fourth of all the homes in the United States for a year. DOE also estimates CO2 emissions will be cut by 344 million metric tons over 30 years, an amount equal to the annual emissions of about 70 million cars. Over the same 30-year period, and taking into account up-front costs, consumers will save up to $36 billion.

The electric refrigerator has come a long way from its high-priced, energy wasting ancestors, thanks to cooperation between manufacturers, advocates, and government. Now that’s a story worth telling!


Working government is not an oxymoron: How savings from federal agency actions on energy efficiency could save us $2.6 trillion
September 10, 2014 - 10:18 am

By Lowell Ungar, Senior Policy Advisor


“Washington, D.C.” has become a synonym for “dysfunction” in the last few years, prompting many who care about energy efficiency policy to turn their attention to states. But that view is due to a focus on Congress and on President Obama’s interactions with Congress, where the epithet is mostly deserved. If you look beyond the white marble dome to the federal agencies, there is lots of action on energy efficiency. Turns out, previous congresses have left a lot of unfinished business, notably from the [no-glossary]Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007,[/no-glossary] signed by President George W. Bush. Federal agencies under President Obama have, for the most part, been turning those legislative provisions into real savings for the American people.

The economic and environmental impacts are impressive. In Government Works: Federal Agency Actions on Energy Efficiency, we looked at four sets of actions on energy efficiency that agencies have taken since 2009 or could do in the next few years (most of which are already underway). We estimate that collectively these policies could save the American people $2.6 trillion (for sticklers, that is net present value of savings after needed investments for measures taken through 2040). They could cut cumulative carbon dioxide emissions by 34 billion metric tons, more than the total emissions from fossil fuels in this country over six years. They could reduce oil use by 3.4 million barrels a day in 2030, and 4.7 million barrels a day in 2040. And they could cut electricity demand in 2030 by one-fourth. The energy savings from the existing and prospective policies are illustrated here (for comparison, total U.S. energy consumption in a year is almost 100 quadrillion Btu):

Half of those energy savings are from policies that have not been issued yet. To achieve them the agencies will have to work even harder and to continue to make smart choices. The biggest opportunity for savings is the carbon dioxide emissions standard for existing power plants (EPA’s Clean Power Plan), as customer efficiency cuts the need for fossil fuel power plants and thus cuts their emissions. But the rule will only reap the savings if the Environmental Protection Agency continues to look at the electric system as a whole, as it did in its recent draft rule, while adding more guidance to the states on how they can achieve and document the savings. The second fuel economy standard for heavy-duty trucks and buses also could leap-frog the first, but only if it too looks at the system as a whole, in this case the engine, tractor, and trailer.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has—at long last—been churning out appliance and equipment efficiency standards that should save consumers over $450 billion, but it needs to step up its pace. And multiple agencies are years behind in policies that can use major advances in building technologies and building energy codes to slash utility bills for owners of new homes—especially DOE on manufactured housing efficiency standards, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Agriculture on criteria for new homes with federal loans. They are working to catch up.

Agency action is not a panacea. More legislation is needed to achieve efficiency’s potential and to achieve the more ambitious national goals such as doubling energy productivity by 2030. But even in the current legislative gridlock, federal agencies are showing that government, using energy efficiency policies, can work—for consumer pocketbooks, for jobs, for the environment, and for national security.


CHP should also be part of EPA’s Clean Power Plan building blocks
September 04, 2014 - 9:43 am

By Meegan Kelly, Senior Research Analyst, Industry Program


EPA’s Clean Power Plan outlines four building blocks, each of which represent a category of measures that states can use to meet the first-ever federal regulation for reducing carbon dioxide from existing power plants. By including energy efficiency, EPA created a path for states to reduce both greenhouse gases and consumer energy bills, but the agency overlooked combined heat and power (CHP), a readily available energy resource that would provide states with substantial energy savings.

For a policy measure to be included as a building block under EPA’s proposal, the energy savings it provides should be cost-effective, adequately demonstrated, and there should be lots of it. Recently, we posted a blog explaining why the agency should have included building codes in its four building blocks. For similar reasons, EPA should also consider CHP when setting emission reduction goals and as a clearly defined compliance option for states.

CHP uses fuel more efficiently than other forms of power generation, providing both energy and environmental advantages over separate heat and power systems. In a recent report, ACEEE found that more than 68 million MWh of energy could be saved in 2030 from installing CHP, which represents around 18 GW of avoided capacity. Those energy savings could cut carbon dioxide emissions and offset the need for about 36 power plants.

In addition to offering energy and environmental benefits, CHP is a well-established resource that is widely used at industrial facilities, hospitals, and universities to reduce operating costs and ensure reliability. It currently represents 8% of installed U.S. electric generating capacity and over 12% of total electricity generation , but has the potential to achieve much more. ICF International estimates that CHP could supply 13% of U.S. generating capacity. Including CHP in the setting of CO2 reduction goals will encourage greater investment in this suite of efficient technologies and drive us closer to those environmental and economic benefits.

As an energy efficiency measure, CHP can provide emissions reductions at a lower cost than other sources. To overcome existing regulatory and market barriers, a handful of states, including New York, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and others, have developed innovative approaches to increase deployment of CHP for its energy savings and emissions benefits. Now, under the 111(d) rule, CHP represents a rapidly deployable option for achieving reduction targets. EPA should encourage states to use CHP and provide guidance to help states include energy savings from CHP in their compliance plans.


Quick question: How energy efficient is your city?
August 28, 2014 - 10:35 am

By David Ribeiro, Senior Analyst


Whenever I go to trivia night, I am amazed by the little factoids I know nothing about. Baseball or Seinfeld trivia, I have that down. Knowing the name of the township in New Jersey, of Algonquian language origin, where Aaron Burr mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton in a duel? Not so much. (It’s Weehawken, by the way.) Even for those of us in the energy efficiency world, there’s always more to learn about efficiency-related programs and policies that have been implemented by states and cities. ACEEE’s State and Local Energy Efficiency Database can help you do just that.

With the recent addition of Kansas City, MO to our database, our trove of local energy efficiency program and policy information has expanded to cover 52 cities. We collected data for 42 cities during our research for the 2013 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard and development of the Local Energy Efficiency Self-Scoring Tool. Since then, ten cities have evaluated their own efforts using the Self-Scoring Tool and submitted the results to us to include in the database. Joining KCMO is Carrboro, NCCharlottesville, VACincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OHMilwaukee, WI; New Orleans, LAProvidence, RI; Richmond, VA; and Salt Lake City, UT. Thanks to those contributions, the information in the database now applies to another 2,750,000 community residents throughout the country. And guess what? There are some interesting trivia questions in there:

  • Does Salt Lake City publicly report to the community on their energy efficiency-related efforts? Yes, they do. Salt Lake City has a Sustainability Dashboard detailing some of the city’s energy initiatives and marking its progress toward achieving them, including annual greenhouse gas emissions reductions and the increase in ENERGY STAR® certified buildings. The same can’t be said of many larger cities, like San Antonio, Miami, or Detroit.

  • Does Richmond have efficient distributed energy systems, such as combined heat and power (CHP)? Yes, lots of them. CHP capacity within Richmond is 276,864 kW, meaning that if the city had 100,000 residents, its capacity would be 135MW. If Richmond had been included in the 2013 City Scorecard, its per-capita capacity figure would have been tops among all cities!

  • Do Milwaukee and Carrboro have car-sharing programs in their cities? Yes and no. Milwaukee residents have access to Zipcar, and Carrboro is evaluating the possibility of a car-sharing program. It’s worth noting that Carrboro’s fellow North Carolinians in Charlotte don’t have a car sharing program yet, either.

  • Does Charlottesville track energy use in their municipal buildings? Yes again. The city tracks the energy use of all municipal facilities and imports it into ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager .

These are just a sample of the city-related questions the database can answer, but there are lots of state energy efficiency questions it can answer, too, like whether a state has an energy efficiency resource standard or incentives for high-efficiency vehicles. And as we progress toward developing the 2015 City Scorecard, to be released early next year, we will be updating entries for all cities in the database and adding more new cities as well. So, if you want to beef up your efficiency knowledge, check out the database!


It’s been a decade since we last looked at energy efficiency potential studies. Here’s what we found.
August 14, 2014 - 5:16 pm

By Max Neubauer, Senior Policy Analyst


Energy efficiency technical, economic, and achievable potential studies are complex analytical tools used for quantifying the amount of energy savings a state or utility can achieve over time through a portfolio of programs. Potential studies are used regularly across the country for a variety of purposes, such as to inform program design and energy system planning, or to convey the benefits and costs of treating energy efficiency as a resource. Clearly, potential studies are invaluable in guiding future investments in energy efficiency. But few people truly understand how a study’s models and assumptions are developed and how they impact results. If potential studies are to continue to inform energy system planning, we must be able to easily understand their methodologies in order to appreciate the robustness of their results.

The goals of ACEEE’s new report, Cracking the TEAPOT: Technical, Economic, and Achievable Potential Studies, are twofold: to educate stakeholders about how potential studies are carried out, and to explore how savings estimates have changed over time. The report tackles the questions often left unanswered in potential studies, such as: Which inputs, such as participation rates and utility avoided costs, have the most influence on results? What is the underlying data and where does it come from? How do building codes and appliance standards limit potential? How often are studies used to inform program design? The answers to these questions are critical, but frequently unclear.

The quality of a potential study is the product of the resources and effort that go into it, and whether its assumptions are reasonable or constrained. However, exhaustive efforts and unlimited resources do not guarantee accurate estimates of potential, or meaningful and useful results. This is because energy system planning is inherently complex and subject to many uncertainties, which only get exacerbated over time. The figure below shows just how varied results can be when simply controlling for geography and the study time period.

Average Annual Maximum Achievable Savings Potential (%), by Census Region

Using a sample of 45 studies released since 2009, we found that average annual maximum achievable savings for electricity, as a percent of total sales, range from 0.3% to 2.9%, with a median of 1.3%. For natural gas efficiency programs, average annual maximum achievable savings range from 0.1% to 2.4% with a median of 0.9%. So studies are finding quite a range of savings potential. Our previous meta-analysis released in 2004 found a similar pattern results: a median annual electric savings of 1.2%, and 0.5% for annual natural gas savings. This consistency implies that, for all the differences in methodologies and assumptions, states and utilities are still finding a considerable amount of cost-effective energy efficiency savings potential after more than ten years.

Energy efficiency potential studies are an important tool for assessing the cost-effective potential for energy efficiency to meet customer demand. They can provide an illustrative snapshot of existing market conditions. They can help program administrators develop expectations about energy efficiency program performance. But they are most valuable in the near term, because models and projections break down significantly as time goes by. However and whenever potential studies are used, they must be transparent and accessible. This leads to more active, constructive discussions and more rigorous planning. If we are committed to treating energy efficiency as an energy system resource, then potential studies should reflect that commitment, enabling us to chart a clearer, more reliable path toward sustainability and resiliency.


4 ways your city can be cooler next summer
August 11, 2014 - 4:43 pm

By Virginia Hewitt , Local Policy Research Assistant


This summer was a scorcher. Heat waves repeatedly struck the Midwest and South, sparing only sections of the Northeast. All of California is still in a drought. Cities were especially hot due to their concentration of buildings and human activity, a phenomenon called the urban heat island effect. At times, it may have felt impossible to beat the heat. Luckily, a recent report from ACEEE and the Global Cool Cities Alliance, Cool Policies for Cool Cities, shows how local governments enable communities to beat the heat before it starts. By employing the following cooling and energy-efficient practices before next summer, cities across North America can keep their cool: 

Plant a Tree – A Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”  Older trees with broad leaves and reaching branches provide a lot of shade for parks, pavements, homes, and offices, helping to keep them cool. They also clean the air and produce oxygen. Local governments often plant trees on city land, but did you know that many cities also provide free or discounted trees for planting on private land? 

  • The Million Trees NYC program provides free trees to property owners, and runs a hotline for residents to call requesting a street tree be planted on their block. 
  • Portland, OR offers a “Treebate” in the form of a $15-50 water bill credit to property owners who plant a tree on their land. ​Grow Boston Greener offers a $2,500 grant competition to fund tree planting in selected neighborhoods. 
  • Grow Boston Greener offers a $2,500 grant competition to fund tree planting in selected neighborhoods.

Paint your roof. Dark-colored roofs trap and store heat. This heat radiates into the building, and doesn’t dissipate at night. Trapped heat is unpleasant and costly for residents who are forced to crank their AC, and is dangerous, sometimes deadly, for residents who don’t have access to air conditioning. A light-colored or reflective roof traps and stores considerably less heat. Cool roofs, for the same price as dark roofs, reflect the sun’s rays back out into the atmosphere. Recognizing the energy-efficient and publicly beneficial nature of cool roofs, some cities (and the entire State of California) require or encourage new and updated roofs to be reflective.

  • New and updated roofs in Los Angeles are required to meet a standard reflectiveness. To reduce the cost even further, LA’s Department of Water and Power offers a rebate of $0.20 to $0.30 per square foot.
  • St. Louis provides an innovative, low-cost financing option called Set the PACE St. Louis for residents replacing their traditional roof with one meeting a reflectiveness standard.

Replace dark pavement. Dark pavements also absorb, trap, and slowly release heat. You’ve experienced this running barefoot across a blacktop basketball court or parking lot. Light pavement, on the other hand, can be 50°-70°F cooler. Replacing dark pavement with vegetation also reduces the urban heat island effect. Grass and other permeable surfaces keep a city’s temperature down compared to pavement. As a bonus, they also filter stormwater. Cities have begun to encourage residents to paint parking lots, play areas, and alleyways with reflective coatings, or replace them with porous materials.

  • Chicago’s Green Alleys program transforms traditional alleyways into permeable ones. The program also empowers residents to derive more benefit from their green alleyways through pamphlets about landscaping and maintenance techniques.
  • Washington D.C.’s Riversmart programs enable individuals and communities to replace dark pavement and build green stormwater infrastructure through a series of grants and rebates.
  • Philadelphia offers stormwater bill credits to commercial property owners that install green stormwater infrastructure.

Vegetate your roof. A green roof eliminates the negative heat effects of a dark roof, and adds the benefits of oxygen exchange, amenity space, and opportunity for urban agriculture. Building a vegetated roof may seem like an expensive project, but many local governments are willing to share your costs.

  • Toronto, Ontario offers the Eco-Roof Incentive, a $75 per square meter rebate to help residents and businesses complete a green roof project.
  • Austin encourages green roofs by offering a variety of credits to developers for open space, parkland, and stormwater management. Density bonuses are also available.
  • Residents of Cincinnati may apply for a below-market-rate loan to install a vegetated roof. This is an effort through the Ohio EPA, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati Office of Environmental & Sustainability.

Many local governments already do their part to reduce the urban heat island effect on their own properties, and some provide resources to help members of their communities do their part as well. Although the cities mentioned in this post (and many, many others!) are taking steps to reduce the urban heat island effect, every community can do more. An important driver of increasing urban heat island mitigation policies within a community is citizen demand. Strong private demand can help any of these cool technologies become standard market practice. Investing in cool technologies and buildings makes a community pleasant for all its inhabitants and visitors! Interested in learning more or cooling down your own city? First, check out the report to see what your city is doing to create a cool community. Next, participate in the programs that are available. If you aren’t impressed with what is offered, get involved and ask your city to keep its cool.


Combined natural gas and electric utility energy efficiency programs score expanded savings
August 06, 2014 - 10:00 am

By Seth Nowak, Senior Analyst


Baseball’s All-Star Game assembles teams of the best athletes to face off against each other and play at an extraordinary level, beyond what is possible during the regular season. Natural gas and electric utilities design and build dual-fuel energy efficiency programs that score added energy savings and cut costs beyond what they could have achieved on their own. While the All-Star Game happens just once each year, combined gas and electric energy efficiency programs are performing at levels beyond the ordinary on an ongoing basis.

A new ACEEE report, Successful Practices in Combined Gas and Electric Utility Energy Efficiency Programs, examines the challenges utilities face and presents descriptive profiles of leading combined programs and their performance results. We found exemplary combined programs—residential, commercial, and industrial—in  states in every region of the country in which there are both gas and electric efficiency programs.

As a regular reader of this blog, you are probably aware that utility sector energy efficiency programs have been growing rapidly for the last decade. Gas and electric budgets have more than tripled since 2006.

Yet this impressive growth has occurred in a context where the most common pattern has been for electric utilities and natural gas utilities to operate their programs independently. That impedes customers who want to undertake projects that save both electricity and gas. Measures that could save energy and money may never get implemented, resulting in lost opportunities. Under separate programs, measures that save both electricity and natural gas may fail cost-effectiveness screening when considered individually, but could pass if considered together.

It’s no accident that single-fuel programs have been the norm. There are a host of issues to address when creating a successful integrated program, from a utility’s concern about cross-fuel competition, to the administrative effort, to regulators who view each utility program administrator as an independent entity. There are questions of program design and implementation. How will the program serve gas customers who don’t have electric service from the partner utility? What about customers who don’t have natural gas service at all? How will the program be funded, the savings be accounted for, and the costs be allocated?

The report finds that, while there is no single winning game plan for combined programs, there are many models to learn from, representing a variety of organizational structures. Keys to success include strong state policies that enable combined programs, effective institutional relationships, and supportive regulators. The report details specific state policies and distills lessons learned from leading combined programs, and it includes an extensive appendix of 16 in-depth program profiles. Each profile provides a description of the combined program structure, reports on performance, addresses the motivations for collaboration, and shares lessons learned. Download the report and find out how to make your combined program into a big league all-star!