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.
On Wednesday, a group of Ohio policymakers released their recommendations to indefinitely freeze the state's clean energy and energy efficiency targets. Their misinformed recommendations, if implemented, would once again deliver a major setback to Ohio energy bill payers and the state's clean energy economy.
Some utilities are rushing to raise fixed charges. That would be bad for the economy and your utility bill
Slow growth in electricity demand (or, in some places, flat or declining sales) and growing numbers of customer photovoltaic systems are creating concern among utilities about their ability to adequately recover the costs associated with producing electricity. In response, there has been a disturbing trend around the country of utilities proposing to simply raise monthly “fixed charges,” or the charges we pay to the utility just for being a customer.
As you may know, I’ve been thinking about issues relating to the utility of the future, as documented in our June 2014 report. The report mentions, but does not emphasize, a potential emerging trend that could have a large impact on many utilities: the reduction of the traditional mid-afternoon peak, and the growth of an evening peak. (Peak is the time when demand for power is highest.)