Turning on a light switch is a simple act that masks a very complex system. That light is powered by the electric grid, the world’s largest machine, operating in real time. We are growing more and more dependent on electricity, but we often take this incredible machine for granted—until the power goes out, as can happen with extreme weather events. Ensuring grid reliability and preventing interruptions requires balancing electricity supply and demand.
Governor Ralph Northam’s new 2018 Virginia Energy Plan (VEP), released earlier this month, rounds out a busy year for clean energy policy in Virginia. It contains policy and program recommendations that will, if thoroughly implemented, deepen energy savings and expand clean energy in the Commonwealth.
The energy efficiency community is increasingly looking at efficiency programs through a new lens: equity. We ask ourselves not just how to save energy, but how to ensure that everyone has access to the cost savings and increased comfort that result from efficiency upgrades. To incorporate equity into research and program design, we need to consider location. Homes and businesses in rural areas often have unique energy needs that can make it challenging for utilities, state energy offices, nonprofits, and others to deliver energy savings.
California’s official push toward a carbon-free electricity system, now awaiting the governor’s signature, will need dramatic contributions from energy efficiency to succeed.
With the promising trend of plunging prices for renewable energy, there may be a temptation to wonder whether energy efficiency is still cost effective. The answer is a very affirmative “yes.” As companies, cities, and states work to keep energy costs down and meet ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, the choice should not be energy efficiency versus renewable energy. To meet these goals, we need to maximize both resources.
Electricity bills don’t make for terribly exciting reading, but as boring as they may look, there is much more going on beneath the surface. Whereas the price most people pay for electricity remains steady from month to month, electricity costs can change dramatically from one hour to the next for the utilities that send the bills. For example, weather can cause demand to spike, raising prices as well, and suddenly the cost of the electricity is much different from the price we see on our bill.
The increased prevalence of distributed energy resources is driving changes to utility planning. Our new report, The Role of Energy Efficiency in a Distributed Energy Future, found that most utilities are not currently using energy efficiency in distribution system planning, but several states are pursuing new approaches to using efficiency to displace traditional distribution infrastructure upgrades and integrate more renewables into the grid.
As new models with longer ranges, state-of-the-art features, and lower prices enter the market, 2018 is widely expected to be the year of the electric vehicles (EV).
A recent federal proposal puts a spotlight on an uncommonly popular topic: wholesale energy markets. Our new research shows that energy efficiency has provided steadily increasing value to grid operators and customers in two such markets. Our report, Energy Efficiency in Capacity Auctions: A Historical Review of Value, finds that since they have been included, efficiency resources have almost tripled in the Mid-Atlantic auction and almost quadrupled in a similar auction in New England.