As more states and cities set aggressive policies toward a carbon-free future, the energy industry is abuzz with the concept of electrification. What does this have to do with energy efficiency? A lot! Although some people may assume that efficiency’s reduction in electric use conflicts with electrification’s increase in load, in fact, energy efficiency is central to many electrification strategies. Like many relationships, it’s complicated. If done right, electrification presents opportunities to advance energy efficiency and its many benefits.
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.
Electrification is gaining a lot of attention as efforts mount to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and address climate change. ACEEE sees an important role for energy efficiency in these efforts. In fact, we see beneficial electrification – that which reduces total energy, costs, and emissions – as a form of energy efficiency. It can complement traditional efficiency approaches, and together, they can help meet energy, GHG, and economic goals.
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.
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.
Our first-ever scorecard of US utilities, released today, reveals striking regional differences and identifies the best — and worst — performers on energy efficiency. The 2017 Utility Energy Efficiency Scorecard looks at the performance of the 51 largest electric utilities in the United States and highlights cutting-edge efforts. Topping the list are Eversource Massachusetts and National Grid Massachusetts, which both earned the same score.
What is your utility doing to promote energy efficiency? Could it be doing more? Find out in ACEEE’s first Utility Energy Efficiency Scorecard, to be released on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Get excited about this first-of-its-kind, comprehensive look at utility-sector energy efficiency performance by joining our countdown to its release. Here are 10 things to look for:
Today, most American households pay for electric service via a two-part electric rate. This typically consists of a small, fixed customer charge ($ per month) and an energy rate applied per unit of electricity ($ per kilowatt hour). There are some variations on this model, including energy rates that vary based on time of day or total monthly consumption, but the basic structure of residential rates hasn’t changed much over time. In recent years, utilities have proposed significant departures to this format to address the changing dynamics of the electric utility industry.