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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...

July 15, 2014 - 11:12am

By Annie Gilleo, State Policy Research Analyst

Every 5 years, the Florida Public Service Commission is required by the Florida Energy Efficiency Conservation Act to evaluate its energy savings goals and select programs for inclusion in its next 10-year plan. These reviews offer an opportunity for Florida to look back at the past, and forward to the future, and determine just how much energy their programs can save. In recent years, states all over the country have bulked up their energy savings goals, planning for affordable, reliable, clean energy. But Florida seems to be sliding in the opposite direction, as the state’s four primary investor-owned utilities have pushed to significantly scale back their energy savings goals.

All together, Florida utilities propose saving about 480 GWh of electricity over a ten-year period. That’s compared to the more than 6800 GWh of savings they said were cost-effective during the last planning period. If that seems like a dramatic drop in energy efficiency offerings, it’s because it is. The new savings targets are a mere 7% of the old targets. But utilities say it’s all they can do. Well, we here at ACEEE think the future can be brighter for Florida. Here are the arguments for scaling back energy efficiency in the Sunshine State. Look how they shrink when you shine a bright light on them...

July 10, 2014 - 9:36am

By Rachel Young, National Policy Research Analyst

As the World Cup comes to a close, fans are wondering which country will claim the championship. But the World Cup is not the only international competition coming to an exciting end next week. On July 17, ACEEE will release its 2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which will showcase winning energy efficiency policies and programs from around the globe.

This is our second iteration of the International Scorecard and this year we initiated a shakeup of the metrics and the countries included in the report. We added new metrics and improved the scoring. The 2014 International Scorecard will include 31 metrics, covering new topics such as investment in energy efficiency by the private sector, water efficiency, agricultural efficiency, building retrofit policies, and heavy-duty fuel economy standards. We have improved the precision of some of our existing metrics. For example, the industrial energy intensity metric is now weighted to reflect structural differences in economies.

We’ve also added four countries to the official lineup of competitors: India, Mexico, South Korea, and Spain. They’ll join the 2012 veterans, which are Australia, Brazil, Canada,...

July 9, 2014 - 9:40am

By Garrett Herndon, National Policy Research Assistant

On June 2, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made history with the release of the agency’s Clean Power Plan. For the first time, the United States has taken steps toward regulating the emission of greenhouse gases from their largest source: existing power plants. Now that the proposed rule has been published in the Federal Register, the policy wonks of the world have fewer than 120 days to hunker down and process this massive document before comments are due on October 16.

No summer blockbuster is complete without its share of drama. Some were critical before the ink was dry. Others lauded the proposal as a triumph at first glance. Whatever the reaction, it is clear this proposal is a big deal, and 120 days will be a short window to sift through the minutia and develop a clear stance on each detail of the proposal.

For those of us who are proponents of energy efficiency, initial impressions have been mostly positive. In setting the level of emissions reductions required under the proposal, EPA has included...

July 7, 2014 - 2:00pm

By Virginia Hewitt, Local Policy Research Assistant

After work, to unwind, I like to turn on the TV. There is just something about watching people escape from zombies or write 1960s advertising slogans that takes my mind off my day’s work. After I’m all caught up on the soapy cable dramas, though, I get myself into trouble. That’s when I inevitably wind up on reality TV. When I watch a sea of fawning bachelors courting a lone bachelorette, or a young heiress making her way in the business world, it bothers me that these shows fail to truly portray reality. And then I start thinking about work again. If I could create a true reality show, I would call it “So You Think You Can Aggregate Data.”

While reality shows attempt to exhibit “real life,” they rarely wind up looking anything like it. Energy usage data, though? Now THAT is reality. The meter on the side of your house is recording how and when your home is drawing energy. The data reported to the utility by the meter are highly accurate, which is a good thing, because it determines your bill. This is called your “account-level data,” but it can be thought of as your energy usage personality. You can use this information to your benefit! Long-term collection of these data, and proper analysis, can show you and your neighbors where everyone can save energy and lower utility bills. Some electric utilities have hired third-...