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December 19, 2014 - 3:06pm

By Virginia Hewitt, Local Policy Research Assistant

I start thinking about my New Year’s resolution earlier than most. I like to think ahead and know what I’m getting into before committing. This year I could go to the gym more, eat fewer hamburgers, or do more traveling. OK, let’s start with just one thing. Maybe I’ll try to travel more. But how do I set the perfect goal for me? Where do I even start?

Thanks to my organization’s work on community energy planning, I know I can use the SMART goal-setting framework to wrap my head around my plans.

  • Specific: Where do I want to go?
  • Measureable: Does my goal mean cover more miles, or see more new places?
  • Attainable: Can I really afford trips to England, France, and Germany?
  • Relevant: Would a trip to Germany and Japan be putting my language skills to use?
  • Time-bound: Will I achieve this all in one year or is my goal really about developing a new life-long habit?

Communities and large organizations can use this same framework to set their goals. Our new technical assistance toolkit piece, Local Government Energy Management Goals: Best Practices and...

December 17, 2014 - 1:46pm

By Jennifer Thorne Amann, Buildings Program Director

A zero net energy (ZNE) building is a home or commercial building that on average produces as much energy as it uses, achieved through energy efficiency and renewable technologies. The ZNE concept has captured the imagination of the building design and clean energy communities. Now, policymakers, businesses, and a broader segment of the general public are showing an increased interest in ZNE as a means to reduce building operating costs and environmental impact while addressing energy supply challenges. The burgeoning interest in ZNE is reflected in the growing number of ZNE-related targets, goals, and certifications: the American Institute of Architects’ 2030 Challenge, California’s ZNE goals for residential and commercial new construction, and DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Homes Program are notable examples.

How do we turn the buzz surrounding ZNE into real advances on the ground? To meet goals for ZNE construction by 2030, we need to put in place building codes that...

December 16, 2014 - 9:57am

By Martin Kushler, Senior Fellow

With Ohio and Indiana having recently made major changes to their utility energy efficiency policy, and other states like Florida and Arizona considering it, this is an important time to review the evidence about the relative effectiveness of state policies designed to encourage cost-effective energy efficiency. States have embraced energy efficiency policies because the energy savings result in lower customer energy bills, investments in the local economy, improved reliability, and reduced emissions. But not all efficiency policies are equally effective at delivering results, so let’s take a closer look at two commonly touted policies for achieving energy efficiency as a utility system resource: integrated resource planning (IRP) and energy efficiency resource standards (...

December 15, 2014 - 10:19am

By Steven Nadel, Executive Director

Over the weekend the 113th Congress largely wrapped up its work. It looks like this Congress will pass just over 200 bills, the lowest number since World War II. However, before leaving home for the holidays, Congress took action on several bills that will affect energy efficiency:

  1. Congress appropriated money for the rest of the 2015 fiscal year for most federal departments. Included was $1.93 billion for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, an increase of nearly $25 million from the previous year. The advanced manufacturing office and ...

December 10, 2014 - 3:51pm

By Shruti Vaidyanathan, Senior Transportation Analyst

Chances are you’ve seen examples of intelligent efficiency in action in the transportation sector, whether you realize it or not. If you rely on a smart phone app to tell you when your train or bus is arriving for your daily commute, that’s an example of intelligent efficiency at work. If you happen to own a vehicle with a dashboard that provides you instant fuel economy readouts, manufacturers are using intelligent systems to help you maximize the efficiency of your vehicle.

Intelligent efficiency is the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) to improve the overall productivity and efficiency of a given sector. In transportation, intelligent efficiency can affect the way we travel by providing us with real-time feedback and information on fuel economy, making it easier for us to use alternatives to driving such as public transit and bicycles, and by moving traffic away from peak...

December 4, 2014 - 3:08pm

By Seth Nowak, Senior Analyst

Slow growth in electricity demand (or, in some places, flat or declining sales) and growing numbers of customer photovoltaic systems are creating concern among utilities about their ability to adequately recover the costs associated with producing electricity. In response, there has been a disturbing trend around the country of utilities proposing to simply raise monthly “fixed charges,” or the charges we pay to the utility just for being a customer. For residential customers, utilities currently charge about $5-$10 per month for fixed customer charges, but some utilities are proposing to raise those to $20 dollars per month or more.

Why fixed charges are bad

This is a problem for several reasons. First, it limits our control as customers over energy costs in our homes and businesses. If a higher portion of your utility bill is fixed, any actions you take to use energy more efficiently will have less impact on your total bill. That makes wasting electricity less expensive.

Second, higher fixed charges raise several equity concerns. For example, it penalizes those who have already successfully invested in energy efficiency, and raises costs on those customers who use less electricity in the first place, such as those who live in apartments and small businesses.

Third, weakening the incentive...

November 24, 2014 - 3:50pm

By Steven Nadel, Executive Director

As you may know, I’ve been thinking about issues relating to the utility of the future, as documented in our June 2014 report. The report mentions, but does not emphasize, a potential emerging trend that could have a large impact on many utilities: the reduction of the traditional mid-afternoon peak, and the growth of an evening peak. (Peak is the time when demand for power is highest.)

In many regions, evening peaks have been growing, as more consumers install air conditioners and operate them when they get home from work. But two other factors are augmenting this trend. First and foremost is the growth in consumer-owned photovoltaic systems. These systems generate the most power on sunny afternoons, which is about when the traditional early afternoon peak occurs. But when the sun goes down, extra power is quickly needed to replace this solar power. Recent and projected data from Hawaii (where photovoltaic ownership is much higher than any other state) shows these effects. Even in 2012 photovoltaic systems likely depressed the afternoon peak in Hawaii.


November 14, 2014 - 5:41pm

By David Ribeiro, Research Analyst

ACEEE’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard was released last month. You may have seen the rankings, but did you know that combined heat and power (CHP) has its own chapter? We’ve been publishing the Scorecard since 2007. Each year, we’ve seen the policy landscape change, and we’ve refined the metrics to quantify state progress in each policy area to make sure they keep pace with current trends. The CHP chapter is no exception. In 2012, we gave the CHP scoring metrics a significant facelift (see this white paper for more details), but even with the flood of input from states and regional organizations, assessing state friendliness to CHP is an inexact science. Many informed experts have different thoughts on the appropriate methodology. This is made clear to us every year from the volume and thoroughness of CHP-related comments we receive for the Scorecard.

There are two general comments that are particularly important: Are the policies we score states on successfully moving the needle in CHP deployment? Are we weighing the specific policy metrics in a way that truly reflects their importance?

These are fair questions that are difficult to answer....

November 11, 2014 - 4:55pm

By John A. "Skip" Laitner, Consultant

History teaches us that technological advances often lead to new opportunities to reach greater heights. A precipitous decline in the cost of computing power and data storage, and dramatic improvements in programming science, have resulted in the potential for every device to become a connected, “smart” device. Such devices can collect and process enormous amounts of data, making possible many kinds of analysis and higher levels of performance that were unachievable just a decade ago.

One result is increased energy efficiency, the delivery of greater levels of service using fewer energy resources. In a new ACEEE report, we’ve looked at this expanded use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and found that it could become a leading catalyst to boost greater economic productivity while saving money and reducing environmental impacts.

The impact of ICT is being felt across all sectors. Equipment and systems used in buildings, transportation, and manufacturing are becoming adaptive, anticipatory, and networked to one another, both within a facility and across a supply chain. These networked devices can be made even smarter by adding capabilities like context awareness, increased processing power, and independent energy resources. As the devices are interconnected, and managed by the use of multi-objective...

November 10, 2014 - 3:14pm

By Annie Gilleo, State Policy Research Analyst

Voters made many decisions on Election Day. Governors were chosen and new laws were adopted. But one choice Arizona voters didn’t get to make may raise utility costs for families and businesses in the state. On November 4th, while Arizona voters were focused on exit polls and election results, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) staff quietly released a proposal for new energy efficiency rules that would eliminate the state’s ambitious electricity and natural gas savings standards.

The proposed rules would be a major step backward for the state. In recent years, Arizona has staked a place as an energy efficiency leader in the Southwest. The state saved more energy than any other state in the region in 2013. In fact, the nearly 1.75% electricity savings Arizona achieved was fourth highest in the country. Arizona has reached these high levels of savings for utility customers as a direct result of its energy efficiency standards, which were established in 2010 by a unanimous and bipartisan ACC decision. Since then, Arizona has climbed from the 29th to the 15th...