States, utilities see investments in energy efficiency programs grow

Published on October 10, 2018 by Jaclyn Brandt

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The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released the latest edition of its State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which found that investments in energy efficiency measures continue to grow as states and electric utilities work to reach clean energy goals.

In 2017 total spending for electricity efficiency programs was roughly $6.6 billion. Adding natural gas program spending of $1.3 billion, ACEEE estimates total efficiency program spending of approximately $7.9 billion in 2017, up from $7.6 billion in 2016. Nationwide reported savings from utility and public benefits electricity programs in 2017 totaled 27.3 million megawatt-hours (MWh), up by 0.04 percentage points relative to the prior year.

Utilities in all 50 states and D.C. offer energy efficiency programs, and utilities provide a large share of the energy efficiency in the United States.

“States are stepping up on energy efficiency, including major new commitments in New Jersey, New York, and Virginia, helping to address the very limited activity from Washington, DC,” said ACEEE Executive Director Steve Nadel. “These efforts contributed to the 2.25 million-plus efficiency jobs last year in the United States.”

Massachusetts and California were the leaders in energy efficiency, although New Jersey was named the “most-improved” state in the report. The state rose from 23rd to 18th, most notably because of the passage of Senate Bill 2314. The bill establishes a target in energy savings for electricity of 2 percent and a target for savings of natural gas of 0.75 percent (of sales) in the next five years.

SB 2314 also establishes a new energy storage target, as well as benchmarking requirements for commercial buildings that are more than 25,000 square feet.

“Reducing energy consumption is a priority of this administration and goes hand-in-hand with our focus on renewable energy as we do everything we can to mitigate the effects of climate change and make for a healthier environment here in New Jersey,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. “We have begun making progress in very short order, but there remains more hard work ahead.”

With the passage of SB 2314, 27 states now have mandatory energy savings targets.

Utilities in every state are working on energy efficiency programs, including in Michigan where DTE Energy has a number of programs. The utility recently released its 2017 Energy Waste Consumption Annual Report, which found that customers who participated in the programs will save nearly $649 million on energy bills in their lifetime.

Michigan’s Energy Waste Reduction (EWR) standard, which was created under Public Act 295 of 2008, requires utilities to implement energy reduction programs by specified dates.

In 2017, DTE completed more than 38,000 Home Energy Consultations in customer homes and 1,650 Business Energy Consultations in small or medium-sized businesses, installed 14,600 apartment units with energy efficiency products, and delivered 31,000 free energy efficiency kits to homeowners.

The program included numerous components, including offering education on energy efficiency to both consumers and businesses and collaborating with ABC Warehouse and Sears to pick up old refrigerators and freezers when delivering new ones. DTE Electric also spent $850,000 to promote its School Program, which educated students and teachers on energy use. DTE Electric verified 2.6 gigawatt hours (GWh) of net energy savings from the program.

“At DTE, we are committed to helping our customers save energy and lower their energy bills,” said John Boladian, director of Energy Waste Reduction at DTE Energy. “We provide more than 20 programs and wide-spread education and awareness efforts to help our residential and business customers on their energy efficiency journey.”

Missouri improved from 37th to 33rd in 2017, with an annual electric utilities saving of 0.78 percent. Ameren Missouri filed plans in June of 2018 for 15 new energy efficiency programs totaling nearly $92 million each year for the next six years. The utility is planning to pay customers for making energy efficiency upgrades, including up to $2,000 cash back for installing an efficient air conditioner, heat pump, or geothermal system; up to $500 cash back for buying an ENERGY STAR-certified product; or participating in a number of different programs — both for businesses and consumers.

The utility plans to save 2 billion kilowatt hours of energy during the lifecycle of the program.

“Customers are going to have new, meaningful ways to save money, enjoy more control over their energy use and positively impact the environment,” said Michael Moehn, president of Ameren Missouri. “Investing in energy efficiency is a key part in our transition to cleaner energy in a way that is cost-effective and environmentally responsible.”

The program is a part of Ameren Missouri’s goal of reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Nevada also made moves to increase its energy efficiency in 2017, with legislation passed to establish energy savings goals for NV Energy. The utility’s Joint Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and three-year Demand Side Management (DSM) Plan are aiming for annual savings of 1.15 percent in three years. The IRP is also proposing to double Nevada’s renewable energy production by 2023.

Eighteen states fell in the rankings on the ACEEE report, although the council explained that was partially due to adjustments in their methodology. Iowa fell the most in the rankings.

“This drop was largely due to the signing earlier this year of bill SF2311,” according to the report, “which imposes a restrictive spending cap on efficiency programs, removes efficiency program requirements that had been placed on municipal utilities and co-ops, and allows customers to opt out of paying for efficiency programs that fail to satisfy the ratepayer impact (RIM) test, a cost-effectiveness measure rejected by most states as inequitable.”

ACEEE predicted a future drop in Iowa’s rankings, including a 25-50 percent drop in savings for electric programs and a 75-80 percent drop for gas programs.

Utilities were one of the six factors ACEEE looked at in the study. The other five included buildings, transportation, state government, combined heat and power, and appliance standards.

Nine states rolled out an updated zero emission vehicle (ZEV) plan to incentivize customers to buy the vehicles, and many states updated their building code to include net zero-energy building within a certain time limit.