Is the Low Hanging Fruit of Energy Efficiency Gone?
Starting today, Colorado’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) is hearing arguments on a proposal initiated by Xcel Energy to roll back the state’s energy efficiency goals. After the hearings, PUC will review all the testimony as well as staff recommendations and make its decision, likely by mid-June.
The current energy efficiency goal set by the PUC is to save 549 GWh per year by 2020. Xcel is requesting that goal to be reduced 50 percent to 276 GWh per year by 2020. At stake is more than $600 million in projected savings from lower utility bills for businesses and homes, according to Conservation Colorado.
Some say the low-hanging fruit of energy savings, primarily through lighting retrofits, has been picked. Howard Geller, executive director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), says, “We think that newer technologies such as LEDs and advanced cooling are ways that utilities like Xcel and business customers can maintain and possibly increase energy savings – a growth area for energy efficiency.”
Geller pointed out that Xcel’s request for lower energy efficiency goals is for “traditional programs,” and that the utility is doing other things to reduce energy. He cited Xcel’s new conservation voltage reduction initiative, which puts better controls of voltage in the distribution grid to save energy and costs for all customers.
A recent report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) said most states are increasing, not decreasing, their investments in energy efficiency. However, there are a couple of states experiencing a backlash to energy efficiency programs. In Indiana, legislators recently passed a bill, terminating energy efficiency programs and eliminating the state’s EERS. State lawmakers in Ohio are considering legislation that would freeze the state’s energy efficiency targets and eliminate the need for further energy efficiency programs.
Photo: Denver via Shutterstock
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