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September 11, 2014 - 11:21am

By Marianne DiMascio, Outreach Coordinator, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)

One of the great inventions of our time – the modern refrigerator – will get an efficiency makeover when new national efficiency standards go into effect on September 15, reducing energy use of most refrigerators and freezers by about 20-25%. The new standards take effect 100 years after the first modern refrigerators were mass-produced for general use. Before that time, consumers used iceboxes (literally boxes with ice) to keep their food cold, but food safety was an issue. When the ‘electric refrigerator’ was finally introduced it was more than just a convenience, it was an invention that saved people’s lives. (See this 1926 advertisement from the Electric League of Pittsburgh). Refrigerators have evolved considerably since the 1900s both in appearance and function. The early units placed the cooling device on top of a small boxy unit while today’s sleeker multi-door units place the cooling units unseen on the bottom.

The new efficiency measures are the latest in a series of standards over 40 years that have helped to significantly bring down the cost of running a typical refrigerator. A fridge...

September 10, 2014 - 10:18am

By Lowell Ungar, Senior Policy Advisor

“Washington, D.C.” has become a synonym for “dysfunction” in the last few years, prompting many who care about energy efficiency policy to turn their attention to states. But that view is due to a focus on Congress and on President Obama’s interactions with Congress, where the epithet is mostly deserved. If you look beyond the white marble dome to the federal agencies, there is lots of action on energy efficiency. Turns out, previous congresses have left a lot of unfinished business, notably from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed by President George W. Bush. Federal agencies under President Obama have, for the most part, been turning those legislative provisions into real savings for the American people.

The economic and environmental impacts are impressive. In Government Works: Federal Agency Actions on Energy Efficiency, we looked at four sets of actions on energy efficiency that agencies have taken since 2009 or could do in the next few years (most of which are already underway). We estimate that collectively these policies could save the American people $2.6 trillion (for sticklers, that is net present value of savings after needed investments for measures taken through 2040). They could cut cumulative carbon dioxide emissions by 34 billion metric...

September 4, 2014 - 9:43am

By Meegan Kelly, Intern

EPA’s Clean Power Plan outlines four building blocks, each of which represent a category of measures that states can use to meet the first-ever federal regulation for reducing carbon dioxide from existing power plants. By including energy efficiency, EPA created a path for states to reduce both greenhouse gases and consumer energy bills, but the agency overlooked combined heat and power (CHP), a readily available energy resource that would provide states with substantial energy savings.

For a policy measure to be included as a building block under EPA’s proposal, the energy savings it provides should be cost-effective, adequately demonstrated, and there should be lots of it. Recently, we posted a blog explaining why the agency should have included building codes in its four building blocks. For similar reasons, EPA should also consider CHP when setting emission reduction goals and as a clearly defined compliance option for states.

CHP uses fuel more efficiently than other forms of power generation, providing both energy and environmental advantages over separate heat and power systems. In a...

August 28, 2014 - 10:35am

By David Ribeiro, Research Analyst

Whenever I go to trivia night, I am amazed by the little factoids I know nothing about. Baseball or Seinfeld trivia, I have that down. Knowing the name of the township in New Jersey, of Algonquian language origin, where Aaron Burr mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton in a duel? Not so much. (It’s Weehawken, by the way.) Even for those of us in the energy efficiency world, there’s always more to learn about efficiency-related programs and policies that have been implemented by states and cities. ACEEE’s State and Local Energy Efficiency Database can help you do just that.

With the recent addition of Kansas City, MO to our database, our trove of local energy efficiency program and policy information has expanded to cover 52 cities. We collected data for 42 cities during our research for the 2013 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard and development of the Local Energy Efficiency Self-Scoring Tool. Since then, ten cities have evaluated their own efforts using the Self-Scoring Tool and submitted the results to us to include in the database. Joining KCMO is Carrboro, NC...

August 14, 2014 - 3:57pm

By Max Neubauer, Senior Policy Analyst

Energy efficiency technical, economic, and achievable potential studies are complex analytical tools used for quantifying the amount of energy savings a state or utility can achieve over time through a portfolio of programs. Potential studies are used regularly across the country for a variety of purposes, such as to inform program design and energy system planning, or to convey the benefits and costs of treating energy efficiency as a resource. Clearly, potential studies are invaluable in guiding future investments in energy efficiency. But few people truly understand how a study’s models and assumptions are developed and how they impact results. If potential studies are to continue to inform energy system planning, we must be able to easily understand their methodologies in order to appreciate the robustness of their results.

The goals of ACEEE’s new report, Cracking the TEAPOT: Technical, Economic, and Achievable Potential Studies, are twofold: to educate stakeholders about how potential studies are carried out, and to explore how savings estimates have changed over time. The...

August 11, 2014 - 4:43pm

By Virginia Hewitt, Local Policy Research Assistant

This summer was a scorcher. Heat waves repeatedly struck the Midwest and South, sparing only sections of the Northeast. All of California is still in a drought. Cities were especially hot due to their concentration of buildings and human activity, a phenomenon called the urban heat island effect. At times, it may have felt impossible to beat the heat. Luckily, a recent report from ACEEE and the Global Cool Cities Alliance, Cool Policies for Cool Cities, shows how local governments enable communities to beat the heat before it starts. By employing the following cooling and energy-efficient practices before next summer, cities across North America can keep their cool: 

Plant a Tree – A Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”  Older trees with broad leaves and reaching branches provide a lot of shade for parks, pavements, homes, and offices, helping to keep them cool. They also clean the air and produce oxygen. Local governments often plant trees on city land, but did you know that many cities also provide free or discounted trees for planting on private land? 

  • The Million...

August 6, 2014 - 10:00am

By Seth Nowak, Senior Analyst

Baseball’s All-Star Game assembles teams of the best athletes to face off against each other and play at an extraordinary level, beyond what is possible during the regular season. Natural gas and electric utilities design and build dual-fuel energy efficiency programs that score added energy savings and cut costs beyond what they could have achieved on their own. While the All-Star Game happens just once each year, combined gas and electric energy efficiency programs are performing at levels beyond the ordinary on an ongoing basis.

A new ACEEE report, Successful Practices in Combined Gas and Electric Utility Energy Efficiency Programs, examines the challenges utilities face and presents descriptive profiles of leading combined programs and their performance results. We found exemplary combined programs—residential, commercial, and industrial—in  states in every region of the country in which there are both gas and electric efficiency programs.

As a regular reader of this blog, you are probably aware that utility sector energy efficiency programs have been growing rapidly for the last decade. Gas and electric budgets have more than tripled since 2006.

Yet this impressive growth has occurred in a context where the most common pattern has been for...

August 1, 2014 - 9:37am

By Eric Mackres, Manager, Local Policy and Community Strategies

At ACEEE we focus a lot on electricity, electric efficiency programs, and how energy efficiency is the least-cost electric resource. Well, it shouldn’t be a surprise, but there is a parallel and very similar success story for natural gas efficiency. This is important because while most utility sector efficiency programs remain focused on electricity, natural gas programs account for about 18% of efficiency spending nationally and they have recently been a growing share of these growing investments.

At a time when resurgent domestic natural gas production and low natural gas prices are regularly in the news, it can be easy to forget that efficiency programs remain the cheapest and least risky natural gas resource. ACEEE’s recent review of the cost of electric and natural gas utility energy efficiency programs, The Best Value for America’s Energy Dollar, updated the research of a previous study. And guess what? The findings confirm that natural gas efficiency remains the least-cost thermal resource.

The figure below compares the average cost of a therm of saved natural gas from utility programs implemented over eight recent...

July 29, 2014 - 2:30pm

By Ethan Rogers, Senior Manager, Industry

Smart manufacturing, the integration of all facets of manufacturing through the use of information and communication technologies (ICT), is set to transform the industrial sector and its use of energy, raw materials, and labor over the next twenty years. Everyone in a company will have the information they need to make informed, data-driven decisions in real-time. Executives will have will have a panoramic view of productivity and managers will have an in depth view of their production costs, including energy. Given such significant economic potential, it is important for policymakers, economic development organizations, and the energy efficiency community to understand what smart manufacturing is and how it will change energy management in the industrial sector.

Our new report, The Energy Savings Potential of Smart Manufacturing, is designed to show businesses leaders, utility program administrators, and energy managers how to make U.S. manufacturing more energy efficient, productive, and competitive. Picking up where our last report on intelligent efficiency left off, and continuing our examination of the supply chain that was started with a recent white paper on smart freight, we identify the components of smart...

July 24, 2014 - 11:39am

By Therese Langer, Transportation Program Director

Efforts to reduce energy consumption in the transport of goods often run up against the demand for speed, convenience, flexibility, and security. Send a shipment by energy-intensive air or truck if it is valuable or time-sensitive – rail or water will do if it’s not. The fundamental tension in moving goods today is between individualized treatment for each shipment and the efficiency of the system as a whole. But information and communications technologies (ICT) are increasingly offering ways to avoid that tradeoff.

ACEEE’s new white paper, Smart Freight: Applications of Information and Communications Technologies to Freight System Efficiency, explores how ICT can help meet today’s freight performance demands and improve energy efficiency simultaneously. Strategies range from placing freight trucks into electronically controlled platoons, which reduces aerodynamic drag and controls acceleration events, to transmitting product specifications to distributed manufacturing facilities close to the point of use, which can reduce ton-miles traveled and material waste. Other examples demonstrate the vastly increased potential to optimize freight movements by combining shipments of different types from multiple shippers. This means fewer partial loads and empty backhauls, and more opportunities to use intermodal...