It is no secret that rural communities continue to struggle, even in the strong economy, or that they frequently get overlooked when assistance programs are being planned.
According to a recent report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, rural residents spend an average of 4.4 percent of their income on energy bills—energy burden—compared to the 3.3 percent national average. Low-income households, including the elderly, renters and residents of manufactured and multifamily housing, have an energy burden nearly three times that of higher income households.
The High Cost of Energy in Rural America: Household Energy Burdens and Opportunities for Energy Efficiency focuses on energy costs related to the physical housing structure.
The report concludes with program options to address energy affordability, and details challenges and opportunities related to serving rural households with energy efficiency.
Life-changing programs Factors that contribute to energy burden include the physical condition of a home, a household’s ability to invest in energy-efficiency improvements and the availability of efficiency programs and incentives that put energy-saving technologies within reach. Energy-efficiency and home weatherization programs can greatly reduce this burden and make energy bills affordable. Rural utilities can help by offering these types of programs and partnering with local and regional organizations to increase their reach.
Aiken Electric Cooperative’s Help My House on-bill program, highlighted in the ACEEE video “Rural Energy Burden,” demonstrates how utility programs can make a difference in low-income customers’ lives. Participants have been able to slash their electricity bills nearly in half by getting their homes weatherized through Aiken’s program. That is money homeowners can now use to pay for day-to-day necessities.
Learn more A second report will be released by ACEEE this fall exploring lessons learned from rural program leaders across the country. In October, ACEEE is holding its first Rural Energy Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, to examine how energy-efficiency technologies and programs can help rural America revitalize its economy. Industry, utility, cooperative, nonprofit, academia and government representatives will be discussing how to improve and expand efficiency programs that serve rural communities.
LED, or light-emitting diode, bulbs have become a major market player in recent years and can be expected to grow when new lighting efficiency standards come into effect in 2020. Utilities might be tempted to think that there is little of this “low-hanging fruit” left for residential efficiency programs to pluck. Before utility program planners sunset this portfolio mainstay, however, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy suggests you take a closer look at the particulars of your program.
Well-designed lighting programs will likely continue to garner savings for utilities through 2019, but the outlook gets more complicated on January 1, 2020. For one thing, regional differences play a role in how lighting programs perform after the standards are raised. LED adoption varies from state to state and even within states. In most of WAPA’s territory, LEDs are between 20 and 30 percent of the light bulbs purchased. That leaves plenty of room for an effective program to grow the market.
Sales data indicates that lighting programs and retail support are strong drivers of LED adoption. Also, preliminary evidence from New York and Massachusetts indicate that LED adoption drops when programs end. So utilities would be premature to start scaling back their lighting programs—certainly where LED sales are low, and even in states like California where LEDs represent 40 percent of light bulb sales.
ACEEE identifies several program options that could continue the progress in lighting efficiency, even after the standards go into effect.
Underserved markets: Lighting programs can find additional savings by targeting rural, elderly and low-income market segments that have been slower to adopt LEDs.
Specialty lamps: LED versions of popular specialty lamp styles are now available, including decorative, candelabra, globe and reflector lamps. Yet these styles sell significantly fewer units than general-purpose LED lamps, suggesting that consumers need more education about the products.
High quality lamps: Programs should continue to promote high-performing ENERGY STAR-branded products, rather than “value” LED lamps that do not meet ENERGY STAR standards.
Controls: Dimming and occupancy controls offer significant additional savings opportunities. Lighting programs can help connect consumers to quality control solutions that are easy to install and operate.
While residential lighting efficiency programs still have plenty of savings left to tap, the technology’s increasing efficiency will eventually end their usefulness. It is not too soon for utilities to start considering the next opportunities for helping customers control and reduce their energy use.
Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 4/9/18
The videos share the stories of homeowners in three eastern states, and the effect energy-efficiency upgrades have had on their lives. The theme running through the series is that reducing energy waste lessens the need to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity. Those cuts deliver big gains in health, because pollutants from burning fossil fuels contribute to four of the leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, heart disease and stroke.
The series is part of ACEEE’s new Health and Environment program, launched last year to research the linkages among health, environment and energy efficiency, and to educate policymakers. Later this year, ACEEE will release a series of reports that will further explore the health and environmental benefits of saving energy.
A two-day Conference on Health, Environment & Energy ACEEE is planning for December will showcase the research and promote others’ work in this growing field. Utilities are welcomed to attend the conference in New Orleans to add their voices to this critical conversation.
Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 2/6/18
Oh, energy efficiency! Is there anything you can’t do? As if saving consumers money and managing our loads isn’t enough, a video series by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) makes the argument that more efficient buildings play a role in keeping us healthy.
Utilities across the nation are greening their portfolios by adding more renewables and distributed generators as the technologies become more affordable. However, just as the kilowatt-hour you don’t use is the cheapest, it is also the cleanest. The ACEEE series highlights a benefit of energy efficiency that often gets little attention, especially on the personal scale.
Each video presents a case study on how weatherization has helped to improve the health of homeowners and their families. The series launched in December 2017 with a video about a senior citizen living in a trailer in rural West Virginia. After a local anti-poverty program weatherized her home, the woman’s chronic breathing problems eased and her utility bills decreased.
Part two, released this month, shows how better insulation and air sealing have improved a child’s asthma condition in Baltimore. The series will conclude in February with a look at how weatherization is mitigating the effects of outdoor pollution in Pittsburgh. All videos will be available on ACEEE’s website.
In March, ACEEE will release The Next Nexus: Exemplary Programs That Save Energy and Improve Health, a report detailing programs nationwide that work to improve public health by improving building health. These programs represent potential partners for utilities and municipalities seeking to promote weatherization and other building efficiency initiatives. The report also highlights the non-energy benefits of weatherization—such as improved comfort and indoor air quality—helping utility program managers build a stronger case for efficiency upgrades.
If the report whets your appetite to learn more about the intersection of energy efficiency and public health, ACEEE is hosting its first Conference on Health, Environment and Energy in New Orleans in December. The event will offer many opportunities to network and brainstorm with other professionals in these fields. It is time to share the news that reducing energy waste is not only good for your bottom line, it is good for your community.
Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 1/8/18
The 2017 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard rated California as the second most efficient state in the nation behind Massachusetts. Minnesota came in at ninth place, Colorado scored a 15, Utah and Arizona tied for 17th place and Iowa rounded out the group as the 19th most efficient state.
The state of Nevada showed improvement, rising three positions from 2016 to rank 34th, partly as a result of state efforts like the Home Energy Retrofit Opportunities for Seniors (HEROS) program overseen by the Governor’s Office of Energy. Michael Jones of Carson City used the program to properly seal his home, saving money and—just as important for a person with disabilities—improving his comfort.On average, participants like Jones reduce annual electricity use by 5,143 kilowatt-hours and natural gas consumption by 266 therms, saving $927 on their energy bills annually.
For the first time this year, the state-specific score sheets included stories of individuals and communities. The ACEEE found schools that improved lighting and taught students about sustainability, state facilities that secured more reliable electricity and senior citizens who improved the comfort of their homes. The stories demonstrate the effect smart energy-efficiency policies and programs have on our wallets, local economies, productivity and quality of life.
Now in its 11th edition, the ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard benchmarks state progress on efficiency policies and programs that save energy while benefiting the environment and promoting growth. The scorecard ranks states in six categories—utility programs, transportation, building energy codes, combined heat and power, state initiatives and appliance standards—using data vetted by state energy officials.
You can download the report for free (registration required) and check out your state’s scorecard, compare it with others and learn about programs that are driving efficiency gains.
Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 9/27/17
A recent op-ed in the New York Times serves as a reminder that energy efficiency is not only one of the most powerful resources we have for meeting energy and environmental goals, it is also a rare source of bipartisan agreement.
Agreed: Energy efficiency works Citing a poll by the Conservative Energy Network shortly after the November 2016 election, the writer noted that the majority of voters saw policies supporting energy efficiency as important. This is true despite the fact that energy efficiency itself is largely invisible, with economic impacts diffused throughout the economy. Imagine how enthusiastic Americans would be if they realized that more than 2.2 million people spend some or all of their work hours on energy-efficient technologies and services. That is more than the 1.9 million who work to produce electricity (solar, wind, nuclear), coal, oil and gas.
In addition to providing jobs, energy efficiency protects them by helping industries stay economically viable. Federal agencies develop efficiency standards for household appliances and work with American manufacturers to improve productivity. They provide testing and expertise to develop local and state building-efficiency codes for homes and commercial buildings.
Innovative, federally run efficiency programs boast a decades-long record of economic and environmental success across the nation, dating back at least 30 years. Energy Star is a shining example of a public-private partnership that saves American consumers and businesses billions of dollars per year. About three-quarters of U.S. households recognize the Energy Star label as way to control their energy costs while reducing power plant pollution.
The big picture tells an even more important story. The economy has grown by almost 150 percent since 1980 with a corresponding increase in energy consumption of about 20 quadrillion British thermal units. Over that same period, energy efficiency delivered more than 50 quads worth of energy services, far outpacing all other energy sources combined.
Waste still hurting economy In spite of such impressive gains, however, energy waste still costs American businesses and households billions of dollars every year. In commercial buildings alone, where annual electricity costs are roughly $190 billion, about a third of this energy goes to waste, according to the Department of Energy. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy ranks the United States eighth among the top 23 energy-consuming nations in efficiency.
Emerging technologies and population growth are putting demands on our electricity grids that utilities of a generation ago never imagined. Knowing what is at stake, power providers are investing $7.5 billion annually in cost-effective electricity and natural gas efficiency programs.
The electricity industry can continue to build on the success that began when President Ronald Reagan signed the first legislation authorizing federal efficiency standards. Incorporate tools and strategies from federal energy-efficiency programs into your load management programs. Let your customers know about federal resources that might help them use less electricity. When we harness the power of the cheapest kilowatt—the one that is never used—everyone wins.
Oct. 5 is fast approaching, and the message for Energy Efficiency Day 2017—save energy, save money—is one your customers will surely appreciate.
Following the success of last year’s first-ever national event, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economyis looking to expand participation and awareness of the event. More than 175 were official supporters in 2016. Your utility could join the more than 175 government agencies, companies, power providers, cities and other organizations that supported Energy Efficiency Day in 2016.
Outreach includes a website, a Facebook account, more official declarations and a challenge to save energy in homes and businesses. An ACEEE blog post lists four suggestions for challenging your community to save energy.
Sign up on the new event website as an individual or as an organization. You will receive ideas and fun facts to share on social media as Energy Efficiency Day gets closer.
Urge your residential and commercial customers to take the Lightbulb Challengeor the Office Lighting Challenge. Challengers agree to replace at least one light bulb with an LED. If each US household purchases just one LED bulb, consumers could save $500 million annually.
Share your own energy efficiency story. Promote your news about Energy Efficiency Day and the benefits of saving energy–and money–through blog posts, emails, newsletters and social media. Create your own content with videos, photos, graphics or other messages. Sign up on the EE Day website to get more material you can use from ACEEE.
You can use your imagination, too–creativity and humor are welcomed. And don’t forget to share your ideas with ACEEE and WAPA. We would love to highlight your activities in an Energy Services Bulletin story.
Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 9/5/17
Energy efficiency is a big and growing business with $231 billion invested globally in 2016, according to an estimate by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) used the release of the IEA Worldwide Investment report in July as a springboard to examine how much the United States invests in energy efficiency, what is driving that investment and how it could be increased.
We spend how much? The first blog post, How Many Billions do US Businesses and Individuals Invest in Energy Efficiency Each Year?, gave $41 billion as the estimated figure for efficiency spending in our country. This was the first year that the IEA report gave a separate estimate for the U.S., but spending was not broken out by sector. Based on the worldwide estimate, about 58 percent of that spending is for buildings, 26 percent for transportation and 16 percent for industry.
Drawing on other spending reports to get a clearer picture, ACEEE concludes that our energy-efficiency investments may actually range from $60 billion to $115 billion annually. This wide-ranging estimate results from different studies employing different measurement methods and parameters. However, additional research by ACEEE and by the U.S. Green Building Council suggest this range is reasonable.
Policy appears to be the primary driver in energy-efficiency investments, with building codes and appliance and vehicle standards responsible for about $20 billion worth. “Spillover” occurs when policies and programs, such as utility incentives and customer programs, indirectly influence consumer decisions.
Reasons why Other factors driving the decision to invest in energy efficiency include income and education levels among residential consumers and type of industry for business customers.
Who Invests in Energy Efficiency and Why?, the second blog post, cites a survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing that large firms are more likely to engage in energy management activities than small companies. Businesses participating in the Shelton Group’s 2016 B2B Pulse study rated how important sustainability and conservation were to their company’s operating and capital expenditure decisions. Commercial real estate development and property management were the industry groups that gave energy issues the most consideration.
The EIA’s 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey found that consumers with higher incomes are more likely to make energy-efficiency investments large enough to be eligible for federal energy-efficiency tax credits. Smaller investments, such as new lightbulbs, do not appear to be affected by consumer income. Another study found an education effect along with the income effect, but income and education are usually closely related. Households that have moved within the last three years spend more on efficiency improvements, as do younger families.
The reasons commercial customers offer for making efficiency upgrades, while not unexpected, show a subtle shift in priorities. From the Shelton Group study, business customers cited “energy savings or other cost reductions” as the leading motivation for investing in efficiency. Although concern about climate change ranked toward the bottom of the list, the percentage of respondents that mentioned it has nearly doubled in the last year.
Saving on electric bills also topped the reasons residential customers gave for undertaking energy-efficiency improvements at 61 percent. Making the home more comfortable followed with 35 percent and making the home healthier was mentioned by 27 percent of respondents. Taken together, comfort and safety are an equal consideration to financial concerns. The study recommends focusing homeowners on both the financial and non-financial benefits of energy efficiency to explain the value of their investment.
Let’s do more The final post addresses the question on every utility program manager’s mind—How Can we Increase Energy Efficiency Investments?—and offers 10 suggestions to make it happen. According to ACEEE, only about one-quarter of households and businesses implement efficiency upgrades, in spite of the benefits.
The suggestions focus on expanding what is already working, while remaining open to new approaches. More measurement and benchmarking could help program providers identify successful programs and help customers see the value of energy-efficiency improvements. The article also recommends seeking partnerships with real estate, financial and construction industries to reach consumers through different channels.
Energy-efficiency investments were 8-9 percent higher in 2016 than in 2015. The ACEEE blog series offers some starting points to help utilities keep the momentum going. Energy Services looks forward to hearing about your ideas for getting more results from your existing programs and for creative new service offerings.
Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
Low-income households spend on average three times more of their income on energy bills than other households, and easing the pain of higher bills during peak-load times of year is a continuous challenge for utilities.
This group of customers can be hard to reach, leading to a hit-or-miss track record for low-income energy-efficiency programs. But the benefits of successful programs stretch beyond energy and bill savings to include fewer shut-offs, healthier homes, less outdoor pollution and more local jobs. It is well worth the effort to design an effective program, and a new report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) can take some of the mystery out of doing it.
The baseline assessment of more than 70 utilities’ electric and natural gas programs chronicles total investments in these programs, energy savings impacts, customer participation and use of best practices. The study looked at the largest electric and natural gas utility serving each of the 51 largest metropolitan statistical areas.
ACEEE researchers found that low-income programs varied in terms of how deeply they address whole-home energy-efficiency needs and how accessible they were to customers. While many utilities design and administer impressive, effective low-income programs, many of those programs could be improved with best practice elements or increased resources.
The report also looks at best practices in implementation, including whether programs target specific households based on energy burden or other vulnerabilities and streamline enrollment for easier access. Partnering with the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to leverage funds and reach more customers is another factor that impacts the effectiveness of a low-income program.
The study includes maps, data tables and new state-level information on low-income program requirements, cost-effectiveness rules and coordination with the WAP program. Utilities can use the data to see how their programs compare to those of similar utilities and to identify opportunities for adding best practice elements.
Read the entire ACEEE blog post for more information, and share your free copy of the report with state and local policymakers as well as other stakeholders. Also, if your utility has a program to help low-income customers, Energy Services Bulletin would like to know about your experiences.
Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 7/11/17
Changes and challenges are coming to the utility industry in 2017, along with plenty of new tools and innovative approaches you can use to not only manage but master the shifting landscape. Here are some upcoming workshops and courses to help you prepare for what the New Year has in store:
Storage batteries have been around for a while, but integrating them into transmission and distribution systems is new territory for electric utilities. Until recently, it was difficult to make a business case for investing in utility-scale storage. However, the integration of more intermittent and non-dispatchable resources into utility portfolios is changing the cost-benefit equation. Storage batteries provide high-speed response, controllability, modularity, scalability, expandability, flexibility and transportability—exactly the attributes utilities are going to need for the foreseeable future.
This seminar provides an overview and guided tour of proven battery technologies from different manufacturers, challenges of interconnection, investment requirements, typical storage battery power purchase agreements, settlement equations and investment guidelines. The seminar materials cover the full spectrum of applications for utilities, regulatory agencies, project developers, private investors, finance firms, wholesale market participants and owners of wind and solar power plants.
Load forecasting has always been an invaluable tool for helping utilities manage uncertainty. But pre-computer era forecasting practices do not account for a host of bewildering conditions that now affect electricity use. Changes in the mix of supply- and demand-side resources, the impact of technology on the grid and access it allows to system and customer data and dramatic shifts in commodity prices are just a few of the factors that traditional methodologies are failing to capture.
Fortunately, new forecasting methods have been developed to address challenges such as demand forecasting, renewable generation forecasting and price forecasting. This course offers an introduction to modernized forecasting principles, practices and their applications in the utility industry. It will be loaded with examples and illustrations that translate these methodologies into the resulting utility practices.
Attendees will get the essential tools for making sense of today’s power environment and delivering proper guidance for industry decision-makers. An IACET credit is also available for this class.
“Destination Innovation” is the theme of the 27th annual conference of the Association for Energy Services Professionals. This event draws top program managers, policy makers, implementers, marketers, evaluators, consultants and vendors in energy efficiency. The extensive agenda will cover the range of current topics in marketing, tools and technology, implementation, program design, research, evaluation and more.
In addition to speaker presentations, panel discussions and networking events, this year’s conference offers pre-conference training courses. Attendees can either focus on program planning, design and implementation or brush up on their critical thinking skills, while earning .5 CEU.
New and innovative versions of property-assessed clean energy (PACE) legislation and programs are gaining support across the country. Learn more about this 100-percent voluntary strategy to fund energy upgrades to buildings while creating jobs, increasing property value and making progress on state policy goals. The second annual Summit will offer an in-depth look into the growth in residential PACE financing, new PACE products, strategies and programs in development and more.
Newcomers and PACE practitioners alike can will benefit from the opening workshop, PACE 101 Workshop. Presentations will cover legislation to project implementation, including best practices in legislation, local ordinances, program design, financing options, marketing to building owners and training of contractors. Add a wide range of sessions led by PACE experts and an abundance of networking opportunities, and you have a crash course on a valuable tool for growing energy efficiency in your community.
Program development and networking are central to the Utility Energy Forum, now in its 37th year. The sessions will challenge traditional thinking and ask attendees how they are preparing for a different energy utility industry than the one they knew.
This year’s theme, “Change is the Only Constant – Customers, Policy and Technology,” is appropriate not only for our industry, but also for the new location. The Hilton Sonoma, in Santa Rosa near California’s wine country, will host the forum. What hasn’t changed, however, are the sessions “ripped from today’s headlines” (or rather, from our daily experiences), the outstanding speaker roster, and the abundance of networking opportunities. WAPA Energy Services representatives will be there, too, and we look forward to some face-to-face time with our customers.
This first-of-its-kind event focuses on creating utility products, services and experiences for the customer of today and tomorrow. Forward-thinking utility leaders and experts from outside the utility space will explore innovative approaches and design-oriented experiences from a variety of industries to demonstrate how these strategies can be applied at utilities. E Design 2020 askes attendees to leave their comfort zone, uncover high-potential partnerships and discover ways to embrace technological changes that will affect residential and non-residential customers.
After introducing attendees to the design-oriented approach, the comprehensive agenda covers distributed energy, demand-side management, energy services, technology and targeted customer programs. The event highlights empathetic thinking to discover customers’ underlying needs and find new ways of developing products and services that will turn customers into allies.
You can also download materials from the Behavior, Energy & Climate Change Conference (BECC), presented annually by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The conference looks at human behavior and decision-making and how to use the knowledge to accelerate the transition to an energy-efficient and low-carbon future. The session abstracts and some PowerPoint presentations are available for free, or you can buy the full proceedings.
This is the time to let ACEEE know what you would like to see on the 2017 BECC agenda. ACEEE will issue the call for abstracts Feb. 10 for presentations that:
Identify key lessons about behavior and decision making that advance energy/climate solutions
Help integrate research insights throughout the value chains of energy-using goods and services
Expand support for social science research as applied to the biggest contributors to today’s energy challenges
Facilitate knowledge accumulation, exchange and collaboration across analytical approaches from micro to macro (e.g., individual, group, organizational, societal behavior, and decision making)