Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Energy Efficiency

How 26 States Created 85% Of America’s Energy Efficiency Savings

Energy efficiency targets in 26 US states generated 85% of America’s total energy savings – so what can they teach the rest of our country?

Most policy analysis agrees energy efficiency is the cheapest way to reduce consumer power bills and cut emissions by lowering overall electricity demand, but if you really want to get a sense of how powerful efficiency can be, you’ve got to compare the states with ambitious policy to those without.

Just over half the US states have energy efficiency resource standards (EERS), but those 26 states represent nearly all of the electricity savings secured nationwide in 2012, finds Energy Efficiency Resource Standards: A New Progress Report on State Experience, a recent report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

But if there were any doubts about the potential for energy efficiency to decarbonize our economy, consider these states are exceeding their goals, while costing utility customers far less than generating power from fossil fuels.

20 Million Megawatt Hours Of Energy Efficiency Savings

Texas was the first state to set an EERS in 1999, and since then, 25 other states have joined suit and set long-term energy efficiency targets. ACEEE broadly defines EERS as policy setting mandatory energy savings targets for utilities and efficiency program administrators.

And the aggregate impact of these targets? The 26 EERS states aimed to save more than 18 million megawatt hours (MWh) of energy in 2012, but they achieved over 20 million MWh – equivalent to 85% of America’s total energy savings in 2011 or enough to power around 2 million homes for an entire year.

These gains haven’t been uniform, but they’ve been close. 15 states exceeded their electricity savings targets in 2012, six others cut power use 90% or more, and just one state met less than 80% of its target. All of those numbers are improvements from 2011, when 13 exceeded their targets, six passed 90%, and two failed to reach 80%

Potential To Save 6.2% Total US Electricity Sales By 2020

If this trend continues, the 26 EERS states could become a major factor in managing America’s power sector. Assuming all targets remain in place (consider anti-efficiency legislation pending in Ohio) through 2020, their combined annual electricity savings will equal 6.2% of overall US electricity sales.

Long-term policy stability also benefits utilities, according to ACEEE. Multiyear targets provide regulatory certainty beyond annual planning, encourage utilities to consider efficiency as a similar resource to generation, and allow testing of new programs to fine-tune approaches as target savings levels increase.

Combined, the report suggests EERS could be the rare win-win-win for the climate, customers, and utilities alike. “Energy efficiency is a cost-effective and reliable resource that deserves to be a significant part of every state’s energy portfolio,” said Annie Downs, ACEEE state policy research analyst. “Setting energy efficiency targets is smart policy that encourages utilities to help their customers save money…instead of spending even more money building unnecessary new power plants.”

Those cost savings have been well documented. A recent study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found utility customer-funded energy efficiency programs in 45 states pegged the average cost saved energy at $0.021 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) saved, while a report from ACEEE analyzing programs in 20 states estimated the cost of energy efficiency was $0.028/kWh saved – both roughly 33%-50% less than building new generation.

How Can Other States Follow Their Lead?

So what can the outsized success of these 26 states teach the rest of America? To start, ACEEE suggests states encourage success by encouraging changes in utility business models. EERS targets alone don’t always work, but when paired with penalties or incentives, utilities achieve greater return on investments. Most states use a carrot approach offering a rate of return or financial award, while a few assign penalties for missing targets.

Regulatory reforms can also help encourage energy efficiency success, like program-cost recovery where utilities can recover investment costs by treating them as capital expenses, decoupling “lost” revenue from fixed costs independent of power sold on market, or performance incentives providing a risk-adjusted financial gain to meet growing power demand through increased efficiency instead of new generation.

Either way, the lesson is clear – regulators must overcome the fundamental challenge of utilities viewing energy efficiency as a threat to their profits instead of an asset to help reduce the need for new investments.

“Opponents of energy efficiency savings targets ignore the costs of building new power plants, which are paid for through charges on utility bills,” said Martin Kushler, ACEEE senior fellow. “Because saving energy through efficiency improvements is much cheaper than building a new power plant, energy efficiency programs end up resulting in lower utility bills for customers.”

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Written By

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.


You May Also Like

Climate Change

The insurance industry survives and thrives on two things: its ability to quantify risk and then its ability to profit on it. Whether talking...


Recently, we did a story about the 2023 NADA convention and goat roping in Dallas, where Slate correspondent Alexander Sammon got a chance to...


Tesla is weathering a barrage of complaints from critics and regulators who say Musk is moving too fast. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality...

Clean Power

The solar industry is getting big, and these days, there are constantly new solar farms going in, and that’s on top of all of...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.