Washington, D.C. — A consortium of electric utilities and environmental and energy efficiency organizations is hailing the announcement last week by transformer manufacturer ABB to endorse new efficiency standards proposed by the consortium for the nation's approximately 41 million electric distribution transformers.
The endorsement by ABB, the Norwalk, Connecticut-based power and automation technology company, gives a significant boost to the effort to increase the efficiency standards of transformers, because the company and others like it manufacture these crucial pieces of equipment that serve the electrical grid.
Distribution transformers are the metal boxes and cylinders found on utility poles across the nation that serve the important function of reducing voltage of electricity so that it can be used by customers in their homes and businesses. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is presently evaluating the efficiency standards for transformers because even a slight improvement would save significant amounts of electricity before it ever reaches customers, thereby reducing emissions from electric generating plants.
The new efficiency standards were proposed this past February to the DOE by the Edison Electric Institute and the American Public Power Association, representing the nation's investor-owned and public electric utilities, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Alliance to Save Energy, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.
The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) also has endorsed the proposed standards. The DOE is expected to issue its final decision regarding the new standards by September.
Once in place following a gradual phase-in, the new transformers are expected to save 26 billion kilowatt-hours annually, or roughly equivalent to the electricity used by 2.3 million U.S. households in 2005. That will in turn reduce annual emissions from electric power plants by 15 million metric tons, about equal to the average annual emissions of 2.7 million automobiles.
The proposal for higher efficiency standards for distribution transformers marks the first-ever agreement on appliance standards from America's investor-owned and public-power electric utilities and major energy efficiency and environmental groups.