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January 21, 2015 - 10:39am

By Therese Langer, Transportation Program Director

In his State of the Union address, President Obama rightly pointed to a thriving domestic auto industry as a bright spot in the U.S. economy. It’s a good time to recall that the government’s 2008-2009 intervention on behalf of GM and Chrysler played a big role in that outcome, as did energy efficiency.

The domestic industry’s inability to deliver high quality, fuel-efficient cars was a major factor in the dire financial situation that led to the two bankruptcies. So, in the course of the government-assisted restructuring, the auto industry endorsed the administration’s ambitious new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, projected to nearly double the fuel economy of cars and light trucks by 2025, when they were proposed in 2011.

Yet, at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, manufacturers left little doubt they would seek to weaken the 2025 CAFE standards in the upcoming “midterm review” of the program. They argue that low gas prices will keep consumers from buying the advanced vehicles needed to meet the standards. But in fact, the standards rely very little on sales of electric or other advanced technology vehicles. The vast majority of fuel economy gains between now and 2025 are expected to come from gradual improvements to...

January 13, 2015 - 2:09pm

By Dan York, Utilities, State, and Local Policy Program Fellow

Energy efficiency programs serving utility customers have grown rapidly over the past decade. While the rates of growth may have slowed in the last couple of years, most states have policies in place to achieve higher and higher energy savings from utility energy efficiency programs. In order to achieve high energy savings, program administrators can follow two key strategies: (1) get more customers to participate, and (2) get more savings from each participating customer. A report released today by ACEEE examines this first strategy—achieving high program participation. We examined a set of prevalent program types to identify programs that have achieved high participation and better understand the challenges with data and nomenclature. We also wanted to identify program areas that are ripe for growth in participation rates.

Participation rates are key variables for estimating the future potential savings of energy efficiency programs, especially for efficiency program plans and integrated resource planning. Participation rates also are key metrics for tracking past program results. Program administrators, evaluators and regulators need accurate tracking of program participation to evaluate program impacts and success.

But while program participation is simple in principle, it is complex in practice. We found that despite the importance of...

January 8, 2015 - 4:59pm

By Meegan Kelly, Research Analyst, Industry

Here at ACEEE we are big fans of combined heat and power (CHP). It’s energy efficient, it helps with resiliency, and it could be a key strategy for complying with carbon pollution reduction requirements. Each year, as part of the State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, we rank states on policies that encourage deployment of CHP. With each iteration, we review our scoring methodology and collect information on the environment facing CHP developers. As with all of our metrics, scoring of CHP in the State Scorecard focuses on states’ policies, which is only one element that influences the favorability of a state to CHP development.

In a recent blog post, we looked for a correlation between 2014 CHP State Scorecard scores and actual new CHP installations as a simple way to examine the overall relationship between policy and deployment. While the results indicate a moderate correlation between scores and deployment,...

January 6, 2015 - 1:42pm

By Christopher H. Russell, Visiting Fellow, Industry

Everyone knows that energy efficiency results in saving energy, but evidence points to an array of wider benefits. The term “multiple benefits” has emerged to describe the additional value that emerges with any energy performance improvement. The benefits that occur onsite can be especially meaningful to manufacturing, commercial, and institutional facilities. Energy efficiency’s positive ripple effects include increased productivity and product quality, system reliability, and more. Business leaders take note: the bonus value of energy efficiency’s multiple benefits amplifies the return on energy efficiency investments.

Over the past few decades, researchers have documented numerous cases of energy efficiency improvements—almost always focusing exclusively on energy savings. Non-energy benefits are often recognized, but only in concept. ACEEE’s new report, Multiple Benefits of Business-Sector Energy Efficiency, summarizes what we know about the multiple benefits for the business sector. True quantification of these benefits remains elusive due to a lack of standard definitions, measurements, and documentation, but also in part because variations in business facility design and function ensures that a comprehensive list of potential energy efficiency measures is long, varied, and often unique to the...

January 5, 2015 - 11:39am

By Steven Nadel, Executive Director

The New Year is usually a good time to take stock of the year just ended, and to look forward to the year ahead. Regarding energy efficiency, 2014 was generally a good year. Energy-saving technologies and practices continued to advance. For example, in 2014 LED lighting became a mainstream source of light. The Design Lights Consortium now lists more than 70,000 LED lighting products. And a recent DOE report estimates that by 2020, LED lighting will account for about 48% of product sales.

Similarly, intelligent efficiency—using sensors, controls, software, and “big data” to identify sources of energy waste in real time and enable quick solutions—is poised for rapid growth with multiple firms now offering intelligent efficiency services in the commercial sector, and new smart thermostat products from Honeywell and others as direct competition to Nest. Many of these developments were presented at ACEEE’s November Intelligent Efficiency Conference.

There were also policy advances, including the completion of multiple new federal energy efficiency standards that collectively will...

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...