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April 16, 2014 - 11:27am

By R. Neal Elliott, Associate Director for Research

A lot of analysis of the impacts of the SB 310 legislation in Ohio, particularly on the state’s economy, has been in the news lately. Many of these assessments, including those from ACEEE, have focused mostly on employment numbers. But numbers are relatively abstract, and we need to remember that these numbers represent workers and their families. Several conversations at our recent Market Transformation Symposium with implementation contractors working in neighboring Indiana brought this home to me.

Last month, Indiana canceled their energy efficiency programs, and many contractors running programs in the state have already begun the process of laying off staff. In a recent letter to leaders of the Indiana Senate, six companies that help customers cut down on energy waste reported the impacts of canceling the programs. The letter states that about 381 jobs directly related to the programs will be lost, and an additional 1,200 jobs associated with supporting these programs will also vanish. It’s...

April 14, 2014 - 3:44pm

By Siddiq Khan, Senior Researcher

Last week a National Research Council (NRC) committee on heavy-duty vehicles released a report on technological, market, and regulatory factors relevant to the upcoming Phase 2 heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse emissions standards. One reason to pay attention to this report is that the first phase of the heavy-duty standards, adopted in 2011 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), drew extensively from the National Research Council heavy-duty committee report released in 2010.

The new report contains several recommendations in line with ACEEE’s priorities for the Phase 2 program. The committee recommends bringing trailers, especially all new 53-foot (and longer) dry van and refrigerated van trailers, into the regulation. These two categories encompass more than 70% of all trailers in the market. This would be an important advance from the Phase 1 program that could deliver at least 10% additional fuel savings for tractor-trailers.

Other committee recommendations address vehicle testing issues. Due to the substantial cost of physically testing vehicles, the certification process relies heavily on...

April 14, 2014 - 10:27am

By Anthony Fryer, Senior Analyst, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)

New energy-saving standards for certain types of incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs proposed by the Department of Energy (DOE) last Friday mark another important step in improving lighting efficiency in the United States. DOE’s proposal further advances strong standards completed in 2009. Together, the 2009 standards and the proposed increases announced last week dramatically improve reflector lamp and fluorescent tube lamp efficiency by 70% and 23% respectively. Unfortunately, a congressional budget rider prevents DOE from saving even more.

Friday’s proposal covers incandescent reflector lamps, the cone-shaped light bulbs used in track lighting and recessed light fixtures, and fluorescent tube lamps, which are ubiquitous in office buildings. The sheer number of these light bulbs in use means that even modest efficiency improvements will yield large national energy savings. DOE estimates that in 2012 manufacturers shipped about 80 million reflector lamps covered by standards. And based on DOE data, almost 20% of all commercial-sector electricity use goes to power fluorescent tube lamps.

New standards build on previous improvements

DOE estimated...

April 10, 2014 - 2:54pm

By Casey Bell, Senior Economist and Finance Policy Lead

The moment we have been waiting for has arrived! The Warehouse for Energy Efficiency Loans (WHEEL), a financing platform that will open the market for energy efficiency investment to institutional investors, is open for business. WHEEL acts as a virtual financial warehouse for relatively small individual loans, holding them until there are enough loans to attract attention from large investment houses. These transactions will potentially grow the market and make it easier for homeowners to find lower-cost loans for energy efficiency improvements.

Bonds are created for investors through a $100 million asset-backed securities medium-term note program that can be replenished and resold. The platform was formed by a public-private partnership consisting of collaborators from AFC First Financial, Citi, the Pennsylvania Treasury Department, Renewable Funding, the Energy Programs Consortium, the National Association of State Energy Officials, and the U.S. ...

April 9, 2014 - 1:34pm

By R. Neal Elliott, Associate Director for Research

The state of Ohio is poised to take a major step backwards if its legislature enacts SB 310. The bill would gut what has been a successful energy efficiency policy that has saved ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars so far, and would save even more in the future. The passage of SB 310 would set a very bad precedent, and would lead to higher electricity bills and electricity rates for customers.

Last year ACEEE analyzed the impacts of Ohio’s current energy efficiency policy and found that the state’s utility energy efficiency targets (established under the bipartisan legislation SB 221 in 2008) would save customers a total of almost $5.6 billion from avoided energy expenditures and reduce wholesale energy and capacity prices through 2020. Today ACEEE released a report that takes a look at state energy efficiency resource standards (EERS) around the nation, which finds very positive to-date results for Ohio. The report documents that through 2012, Ohio’s utility efficiency programs have achieved over 150% of the savings targets set in SB 221, saving customers even more than projected. Based on evaluations filed with the Public Utility Commission of Ohio, these energy savings have come at a fraction of the cost of new generation...

March 20, 2014 - 1:53pm

By Susan Mazur-Stommen, Behavior and Human Dimensions Program Director

The ACEEE Field Guide to Utility-run Behavior Programs, released in December, is the first comparative analysis of utility-run behavior programs. Practitioners, evaluators, and regulators can now use the guide to design and assess strategies and develop policies for utility-run behavior programs. The problem has been that, when state and local stakeholders thought about creating behavioral programs, they would encounter barriers. These barriers could include questions about cost effectiveness, or the high degree of uncertainty and confounding factors that surround dealing with human behavior. At the same time, and potentially tipping the balance in favor of behavioral programs, many states are looking for new ways to reach the savings targets they have set, and behavior programs are enticing as a cost effective way to reach significant energy savings.

The Field Guide attempts to answer some of these questions. The main takeaways from the report for regulators and state energy officials are that: 1) behavior programs can be just as cost-effective as other EE programs, 2) behavior programs are diverse in type and effect, and 3) different behavior programs can suit the varied needs of investor-owned utilities, municipal utilities, and co-operatives. Behavior programs are within range of most energy-efficiency programs; while only a...

March 19, 2014 - 9:34am

By Christopher H. Russell, Visiting Fellow, Industry

Energy service outsourcing is a business relationship that relieves a large facility from the potential distractions imposed by the ongoing management of one or more energy functions, such as steam, compressed air, water treatment, lighting, or other activities. In essence, a facility would transfer these functional duties to a vendor per a contractual agreement, subject to periodic renewal. The facilities that choose this route anticipate that their energy functions will be performed in a more reliable and cost-effective way by the vendor. Surprisingly, although these services have existed in the market for many years, many in the industrial sector are unaware of them or unsure how to take advantage.

The industrial energy efficiency program sector is also largely unaware of these market-based solutions. This is unfortunate, because U.S.-based manufacturers in 2006 acquired $156 billion dollars’ worth of energy to transform raw and intermediate materials into finished products. Of that total value, $80 billion was lost through inefficient conversion and use—thus providing a first-cut estimate of the market for energy service outsourcing. Forward-thinking program administrators are now looking to outsourcing as a method to effectively boost customer investments in energy efficiency while improving system reliability.

One approach is for these administrators to...

March 14, 2014 - 11:05am

By Ethan Rogers, Senior Manager, Industry

ACEEE and the Great Plains Institute (GPI) have teamed up to catalyze action in the Midwest in support of President Obama’s August 2012 executive order on industrial energy efficiency and combined heat and power (CHP), which set a goal of adding 40 GW of new CHP by 2020. Today, over 12% of the nation’s electricity is generated with CHP, but the technical potential is even greater. The Midwest's share of the 40 GW goal, based on population, is roughly 6.6 GWs. GPI and ACEEE, with over a dozen other organizations, have organized around this goal in this new initiative.

The first step was to document existing CHP capacity and state policies and programs for seven Midwestern states with...

March 13, 2014 - 10:29am

By Garrett Herndon, National Policy Research Assistant

A new tool released today by ACEEE may provide the secret ingredient for achieving emissions reductions that can appeal to even the most finicky tastes.

Energy efficiency has repeatedly been touted as the least-cost, most rapidly deployable mechanism for reducing energy consumption and improving air quality. Twenty-six states already have in place some form of energy efficiency standard. Additionally, there’s a whole menu of utility programs, tax incentives, and government policies, all boosting energy efficiency at the national, regional, state, and local levels.

Despite the prevalence of this vital ingredient for improving air quality, however, relatively few jurisdictions have successfully implemented energy efficiency policies into their recipes for satisfying National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

This fact represents an apparent disconnect. EPA has endorsed efficiency many...

March 12, 2014 - 2:41pm

By Martin Kushler, Senior Fellow

What began in the Indiana Senate as an ill-advised but simple industrial opt-out bill took an unexpected, hard turn in the Indiana General Assembly last week, morphing into a bill that completely eliminates Indiana’s energy efficiency resource standard (EERS). After some delay (caused in large part by a blitz of publicity and push-back by energy efficiency supporters), the Indiana Senate concurred on the amended bill on Monday, and the legislation now moves to the governor’s desk.

Rumor has it that Governor Pence is not enthusiastic about the expanded scope of the bill, which terminates all existing ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs at the end of 2014, and eliminates the existing EERS. It would be somewhat surprising, though, if he vetoes a bill that passed the GOP-controlled legislature by wide margins. Nevertheless, energy efficiency businesses and advocates are continuing their appeal to the governor to veto the bill. By law he has seven days from receipt of the bill to make a decision.

Energy efficiency advocates in Indiana, including the Hoosier Environmental Council,...