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October 25, 2012 - 9:32am

By Christopher H. Russell, Visiting Fellow, Industry

The economy took center stage at times during this year’s presidential debates, but scant attention was paid to the manufacturing sector, which remains an important driver of economic growth as well as energy use. Evidence of a resurgent, domestic manufacturing sector has strategic implications for energy policy as well as the economy. Understanding Industrial Investment Decision Making, a new research report by ACEEE, examines the dynamics of capital investment that drives industrial energy use and competitiveness. 

There’s no question that the manufacturing sector struggled during the past decade, as revealed in macroeconomic data [links to PDF]. However, we find uneven changes in output as some industries advanced while others declined. Interestingly, almost all industries boosted their productivity during this time period, due in part to the closure of older, less efficient facilities. In the short run, this leads to higher capacity utilization as surviving production facilities take up the slack, but another force may accelerate this trend. 

Rising costs of foreign operations are causing a growing number of corporations to “...

October 23, 2012 - 12:45pm

By Steven Nadel, Executive Director

With the election approaching and the parameters of the race becoming clearer, I thought now is a good time to reflect on the implications of this election for energy efficiency.

Following the election, control in Washington is likely to be split—neither party is likely to have a free hand. As of this writing, the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog gives the Democrats an 88% chance of retaining control of the Senate based on the latest polls as well as historic patterns in each state. They don’t provide odds for the House of Representatives but chances are very high that the Republicans will retain control. And then there’s the Presidency, which as of this writing FiveThirtyEight rates as a 70% chance Obama will win and a 30% chance Romney will win. In other words, the odds are very strong that we will continue to have split control of the federal government. 

Given this likelihood, the $64,000 question is whether the current partisan standoff will continue. We do expect a few big “package deals” regarding the budget, debt ceiling, and perhaps tax reform. In addition, a farm bill may happen in 2013 and a transportation bill in 2014, as both of these are “must pass” bills with broad support. Beyond these items the outlook is very unclear...

October 18, 2012 - 10:50am

By Anna Chittum, Senior Researcher

Last month ACEEE released a new research report that finds that much of the coal-powered electric generating capacity expected to be retired in the near future could be replaced by cheaper and cleaner combined heat and power (CHP). Replacing capacity with CHP would be more likely if utilities were encouraged to make such investments.

During the past few weeks, stakeholders from inside and outside the CHP community have responded enthusiastically to the report and noted that they, too, expect to see better collaboration with utilities on CHP projects in the near future. Electric utilities are not currently motivated to encourage CHP since a customer using CHP to generate electricity on-site will typically end up purchasing less electricity from the utility. However, utilities in some states appear open to the idea of making their own investments in CHP and encouraging customer-sited CHP so long as they can earn a return on such investment similar to other capital projects. This is great news because utilities can take a longer-range view of investments, and are well equipped to invest in CHP systems, which can have payback periods of five years or more.

Utilities are planning to make ...

October 16, 2012 - 10:56am

By Casey Bell, Senior Economist and Finance Policy Lead

The impact of investments in energy efficiency extends well beyond reducing energy costs or addressing the environmental impacts of energy extraction and use. These investments provide jobs for American workers and help them to support their families and communities.

ACEEE has just released a series of six profiles of real world experiences in energy efficiency job creation. These profiles describe programs, policies, investments, partnerships, and business models that have catalyzed regional increases in employment. While previous ACEEE work has provided an analytic framework for how jobs are created through efficiency, this paper focuses on the jobs themselves.

Energy efficiency catalyzes employment opportunities that draw upon the broad range of Americans’ skills. Moreover, as companies’ investments in energy efficiency improve their bottom lines, they experience increased competitiveness, which is a potential contributing factor in bringing jobs back to American soil. Each profile serves as an independent portrait of the various driving forces behind energy efficiency job creation, illustrates the diversity of energy efficiency jobs,...

October 9, 2012 - 12:08pm

By Max Neubauer, Senior Policy Analyst

A new frontier for energy efficiency has been evolving quietly in the Southwestern United States as the region’s electric utilities have increasingly invested in energy efficiency as a least-cost, low-risk energy resource. In ACEEE’s 2012 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which was released last week, five of the six Southwestern states rank in the top half of states for Utility Programs and Policies. In the overall rankings, Arizona (12th) leads the Southwest pack and was one of the most improved states and Colorado (14th) follows closely behind. But while the Southwest states have already made great strides in energy efficiency, much more potential remains for cost-effective energy efficiency.

Today the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) released a report, The $20 Billion Bonanza: Best Practice Electric Utility Energy Efficiency Programs and their Benefits for the Southwest, acknowledging the efforts of the region’s utilities over the past decade and heralding the potential for growing success over the next decade (check out SWEEP’s site for more materials like facts sheets). ACEEE was a contributing author on...

October 4, 2012 - 9:31am

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

On October 10, ACEEE’s Behavior and Human Dimensions of Energy Use Program will be releasing the first in a series of white papers on popular approaches for driving energy efficiency using social science methods and insights. This paper, Reaching the “High-Hanging Fruit“ through Behavior Change, shows how Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM) puts energy savings within reach across different types of programs, especially when it comes to the savings achieved through a ”home energy ...

October 3, 2012 - 3:56pm

By Patrick Kiker, Communications Associate

Today we’ve released our 2012 State Scorecard. Massachusetts retained the top spot for the second year in a row, having overtaken California last year. The report examines six of the primary policy areas in which states typically pursue energy efficiency: utility and “public benefits” programs and policies; transportation policies; building energy codes; combined heat and power (CHP) policies; state government-led initiatives around energy efficiency; and appliance and equipment standards. To learn more about the top 10 energy efficiency states, the 10 states in most need of improvement, and the seven most improved states visit: An audio recording of the Scorecard release will be available later today.

September 26, 2012 - 12:41pm

Every year, we take a wide-ranging look at energy efficiency in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in our report, the State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. The State Scorecard benchmarks the states according to the policies and programs that encourage the efficient use of energy in the utility, buildings, industry, transportation, and public sectors. The report aims to capture the diversity of efforts related to energy efficiency happening at the state level and to encourage friendly competition among the states to craft innovative policies and programs that deliver the economic, environmental, and energy security benefits of efficiency.

The 2012 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard will be released on October 3, 2012. We also review our methodology and data sources annually to see if we can better reflect the diverse efforts that states are making to become more energy efficient (last year before the release of the State Scorecard we blogged about how we develop the scores and what makes a state energy efficient). In 2012,we made changes to our scoring—some slight, some significant—in four categories: combined heat and power; savings from customer-funded electricefficiency programs...

September 24, 2012 - 10:33am

By Anna Chittum, Senior Researcher

Today ACEEE released a new report that digs deep into the complicated but important work of evaluating the impact of energy efficiency programs. This report targets the evaluation of industrial energy efficiency programs in particular, taking aim at some of the most contentious areas of evaluation.

Regulators or efficiency program administrators typically hire third-party evaluators to assess how a program is performing. One of these types of assessments is called an impact evaluation, which measures the actual impact of an energy efficiency program. This typically includes energy savings, non-energy benefits, and energy efficiency investments that the program encouraged elsewhere in the market. It also typically measures “free riders”—participants in an energy efficiency program who would have made their energy efficiency investment even if the program never existed.

The challenge in industrial efficiency program evaluation is the manner in which these impacts are defined and measured. Industrial facility managers make energy efficiency investments due to...

September 13, 2012 - 9:32am

By Rachel Young, National Policy Research Analyst

The recent boom in shale gas production and the subsequent decrease in the price of natural gas have left some wondering what the role for energy efficiency will be in the future. As a new ACEEE white paper explains, energy efficiency measures are still cost-effective in any foreseeable natural gas price environment. States should deploy cost-effective and readily available energy efficiency measures now to help provide long-term stability to the electric and natural gas markets and ensure that natural gas resources are used as efficiently as possible.

Historically, the natural gas market has experienced booms and busts where prices ranged from $2 to $16 per million British thermal units (MMBtu). Last winter, the United States entered a boom period driven by unseasonably warm weather and an explosion of domestic shale gas production and prices at historic lows—under $2 per MMBtu. Looking forward, ICF International forecasts that prices will not remain at the current low levels. ICF estimates a steady increase in the price of natural gas to more than $4 per MMBtu by the end of 2012. Over the long term ICF forecasts that prices will increase as...