Utilities Can Save Big with Next-Gen Energy Efficiency Programs, ACEEE Says

Next-generation energy-efficiency technologies and programs can help utilities save 27 percent of forecasted electricity use and 19 percent of forecasted natural gas use by 2030, according to a report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Frontiers of Energy Efficiency: Next Generation Programs Reach for High Energy Savings says these new technologies combined with innovative program designs can help meet the aggressive saving targets being set by many states.

Energy-efficiency programs for utility customers have been in place for more than three decades in many areas in the US. ACEEE says these programs have experienced unprecedented growth over the past decade, in significant part because of policies that establish high, specific energy savings targets to be achieved through energy-efficiency programs.

Over the next two decades, achieving and sustaining high savings levels present challenges for energy-efficiency programs. Increasingly stringent building codes and energy-efficiency standards for appliances and other technologies are moving baseline energy-efficiency performance higher. Achieving high participation rates has been difficult for certain types of programs.

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. Improved understanding of more narrowly defined customer segments through better data analytics can enable program administrators to structure and focus incentives and marketing to increase participation. Programs are successfully serving customers in markets that historically have been difficult to reach, such as multifamily housing and manufactured homes, the report says.

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

In a blog post last week, ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel forecasts utility-sector spending on energy efficiency will increase in 2013, and says congress will likely look at bipartisan energy-efficiency legislation this year. In December 2012, Nadel testified at the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure hearing to advocate for energy-efficiency tax incentives.

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