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Arrested Development of Energy Efficiency

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Nevelyn Black's picture
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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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"This is the most troubling regulatory situation I have seen in 22 years of being involved in utility regulation in New Hampshire.” Don Kreis, utility consumer advocate in New Hampshire, made the above statement about the state’s PUC and their delayed ruling on the utilities energy efficiency plans.  Concerns raised by PUC staff, lawmakers and the Business and Industry Association centered on the impact it would have on an already fragile economy. The ambitious energy plans promise even greater energy savings and efficiency measures but would involve higher costs to customers.  The PUC was supposed to rule on the 3 year plan on February 23 but decided they needed more time.  “There are some programs we’re having to slow down customer activity, or essentially put customers on hold until we get further clarity from the commission on our proposed plan,” said Eric Stanley, Liberty’s energy efficiency manager.  Eversource and other local utilities are worried their plans will also be plagued by uncertainty.  The pandemic has put several weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades on hold nationwide but many were hopeful the new year would ring in new opportunities for energy efficiency programs.  Nevada is pushing for greater investments in energy efficiency with proposed bill, SB382.  The bill has four main objectives;

  1. Directs NV Energy and the state’s Public Utilities Commission to establish a program required to produce electric savings equal to at least 1.3 percent of the company’s retail electric sales 
  2. Provides double funding for energy efficiency programs serving low income and historically disadvantaged communities  
  3. Requires a cost-benefit analysis for any energy efficiency programs proposed by NV Energy
  4. Creates a performance-based earning opportunity for NV Energy as part of the energy savings program

While the utility “wholeheartedly support(s) energy efficiency,” NV Energy expressed similar concerns about timing, costs and the bill’s financial impact on customers.  Even without new laws, utilities can do much to increase conservation.  Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and local power companies like Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB) are offering help for energy efficiency with both free energy audits and targeted grant programs in low-income neighborhoods. "There is a tremendous opportunity in many homes and businesses to improve energy efficiency and the use of more sustainable energy to achieve both cost savings and improvements to our environment,” says Michael Walton, executive director for green|spaces, a Chattanooga nonprofit organization that works to promote more energy-efficient houses and commercial buildings.  "Generally speaking, in theory, energy efficiency retrofits should be among the most cost-effective ways the federal government can spend money.  We should take advantage of what's been learned over multiple decades in how to implement efficiency upgrades of people's homes and commercial and industrial facilities,” said Dan Reicher, senior scholar at Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment and former assistant secretary of Energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy under President Clinton.

In the tug-of-war between utilities and lawmakers, both citing the burden for consumers would be too great, how will it all end?  I, for one, am eager to see what happens next, especially in Florida.

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Norbert Vasen's picture
Norbert Vasen on Apr 12, 2021

Hi Nevelyn, that is a good point, I am also always blogging about the sluggish development of Energy Efficiency, see also the post that is to be approved (I expect will come out today) about the iea.org saying the same, during the preparation of the COP26.
I think that more energy managers will be the solution for larger consumers, including medium enterprises. I put a video blog on Youtube about a medium level energy manager, because we need to lower the hurdles in order to increase participation. Finding Energy Efficiency Opportunities is so labor intensive that you can better "upgrade" with a compact course the numerous technical employees that know already well their own employer. As I see the situation in Switzerland, even large companies of 2000 employees don't know what is happening behind the main meter. So I really think this is the solution at least here (Switzerland and several other European countries). What about the USA?

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