ACEEE: Utilities Tripled Efficiency Spending Since 2008

ACEEEInvestment in utility-sector electric energy efficiency programs roughly tripled from around $2 billion in 2008 to around $6 billion in 2012, according to research by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

The figures are drawn from  Leaders of the Pack: ACEEE’s Third National Review of Exemplary Energy Efficiency Programs. The ACEEE  first undertook a review of such programs in 2003 and a second one in 2008. In the intervening five years, the nonprofit was “struck by the degree” by which new programs had proliferated and existing ones had improved. ACEEE initiatied the 2012 survey in recognition of changes to the large-scale economic, resource and political trends influencing efficiency programs, as well as the huge increase in programs in states that hitherto have not had such programs.

The Great Recession and Washington’s response to it, altered the efficiency program landscape according to the report. The economic downturn “clearly has an impact” on consumer willingness to participate in utility efficiency programs, ACEEE says. The recession prompted different responses from different states. Nevada, for exampple, cut back on its efficiency programs on a large scale. Whereas Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut “doubled down” on their commitments to expand efficiency programs, the report says.

The report also finds that a “potentially large wave” of new electricity plants has not materialized as expected. Instead of the 100-150 new coal-fired generators that were perceived to be needed to be constructed a smaller total capacity of natural gas plants have been permitted or built, the report says. Indeed coal plant retirements, rather than new construction, are an emerging trend, the report says.

In March the ACEEE released a report that highlights 16 policies that would remove market barriers across the economy to investments in energy efficiency, which, if enacted, could save the country approximately $1 trillion in energy bills and 19 quads in energy consumption.

Overcoming Market Barriers and Using Market Forces to Advance Energy Efficiency discusses several targeted policies that leverage market mechanisms and address specific market failures to energy efficiency, without requiring what ACEEE calls “substantial spending or government mandates.”

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