ACEEE: Energy-efficiency programs evolve to achieve greater savings

New technologies and innovative program designs are combining to create energy-efficiency programs that can meet the aggressive saving targets many states are setting, according to a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Redirecting to a non-government site (ACEEE).

Frontiers of Energy Efficiency: Next Generation Programs Reach for High Energy Savings finds that these next-generation technologies and programs can potentially achieve and sustain savings as high as 27 percent of forecasted electricity use and 19 percent of forecasted natural gas use by 2030. “As our report shows, new technologies and practices plus new program approaches unlock further opportunities to achieve large energy savings,” said Dan York, ACEEE utilities program director, and lead-author of the report.

Energy-efficiency programs for utility customers have been in place for over three decades in many areas in the United States. In the last 10 years, policies establishing high, specific energy savings targets have contributed to significant growth of these programs. For example, increasingly stringent building codes and energy-efficiency standards for appliances and other technologies are moving baselines for energy-efficiency performance higher.

The challenge facing these programs over the next two decades is to continue to achieve and sustain high savings levels. Certain types of programs in particular are having difficulty achieving high participation rates. The report profiles technologies and programs that offer an answer to these concerns.

While savings opportunities exist for all types of customers, the report finds some of the greatest potential exists for renovations and retrofits of homes and commercial buildings. Lighting also remains a large source of energy savings along with building mechanical systems and a variety of electronics.

Reaching more customers is another direction for next generation programs. Better data analytics improve understanding of more narrowly defined customer segments, enabling program administrators to focus incentives and marketing. Programs serving historically hard-to-reach customers, such as multifamily housing residents and manufactured home owners, are finding more success.

Another clear trend across program portfolios is an emphasis on better understanding customer behavior and motivations. Utilities are using such insights to design programs that engage greater numbers of customers to take actions that save energy.

The report examines a total of 22 different program types and concepts, from residential lighting to commercial buildings to industrial processes, along with a wide range of energy-efficiency technologies, including light-emitting diode (LED) lighting; high-efficiency heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment; and combined heat and power (CHP) systems. The authors interviewed a large number of experts on customer programs and technologies, and collected numerous examples of these leading principles and practices in action.

Maggie Molina, ACEEE state policy senior manager and report co-author, called the report a valuable resource for utilities looking to help consumers save money by using less energy. “With a wealth of information on the leading edge of program designs and energy-efficiency technologies, this report shows that program designers have an increasing number of options to achieve greater energy efficiency,” she said. Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 1/9/13