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December 6, 2012 - 1:48pm

By Anna Chittum, Senior Researcher

As noted in recent blog posts by Forbes contributor William Pentland and the New York Times’ Andrew Revkin, it’s instructive to look at where the lights stayed on during Hurricane Sandy to understand what makes certain places more resilient than others. While 8.5 million customers lost power during Sandy, a small number of facilities (including residential buildings, hospitals, universities, and public service facilities) kept their power, heat, and critical equipment running.

These facilities were able to do this because they used a technology called combined heat and power (CHP), a suite of highly efficient technologies that can run on a variety of fuels. Unlike traditional backup generators, CHP systems typically provide heat and power to facilities during regular operations. They tend to use natural gas and highly efficient turbines and engines to serve their very local loads, but they...

November 30, 2012 - 12:51pm

By Martin Kushler, Senior Fellow

Congratulations are in order to energy efficiency supporters in Ohio who were able to thwart an attempt by FirstEnergy to ram through an amendment to gut Ohio’s energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) during the current lame duck legislative session.

Ohio passed a strong EERS in 2008 and has been making steady progress implementing the policy, exceeding the annual energy savings targets each year. ACEEE assisted The Ohio Manufacturers Association in preparing a...

November 23, 2012 - 2:14pm

By Anna Chittum, Senior Researcher

Combined heat and power (CHP) systems efficiently generate multiple types of power, usually electricity and thermal energy such as steam, using a single fuel input. These systems can run on a number of fuels and serve energy needs in a variety of sectors. They save users money and reduce overall emissions compared to traditional generation of electricity and thermal energy. For these reasons, states have increasingly looked to CHP to help meet rising energy efficiency goals such as those set by energy efficiency resource standards (EERS).

One of the most important ways states can support and encourage CHP through policy is by explicitly including CHP as an eligible resource in an EERS or other portfolio standard. An important caveat is that when designing portfolio standards, energy efficiency targets need to be set based on an energy efficiency potential assessment that includes new CHP. Portfolio standards are most supportive of CHP when they treat CHP savings as equivalent to those from other efficiency resources. Six states do this, and one, Massachusetts, actually...

November 20, 2012 - 11:59am

By Ethan Rogers, Senior Manager, Industry

As the nation begins to ponder tax reform next year, we have an opportunity to create a new corporate tax structure that encourages investments that benefit society, such as energy efficiency, as well as the businesses that make these investments. In the report Industrial Energy Efficiency and Tax Reform, released today, ACEEE analyzes current tax reform proposals with the purpose of understanding the potential each has to encourage investments in the industrial sector in general and in energy efficiency in particular. Encouraging industrial modernization is important to energy efficiency because the energy intensity of manufacturing correlates directly to the vintage of the equipment. As older, less efficient equipment is replaced with newer, more efficient equipment, we can anticipate the energy needed to produce a good or service will decrease. Therefore, in addition to encouraging energy efficiency outright, it also makes sense to encourage industrial modernization.

So although none of the corporate tax reforms currently under consideration prioritize energy efficiency, we wanted to know how each might potentially influence investments that might reduce the energy intensity of the industrial sector. The most commonly discussed proposal is that of...

November 15, 2012 - 11:41am

By Shruti Vaidyanathan, Senior Transportation Analyst

A comprehensive approach to transportation energy efficiency must include a combination of strategies targeted at both vehicle fuel efficiency and travel behavior. While the federal government has taken the lead on fuel efficiency, local and regional policies that reduce the need for driving are also essential to achieve an efficient and sustainable transportation system.

Today ACEEE released a new local guide to help municipalities and metropolitan regions identify policies to expand transportation choices and improve transportation system efficiency. The toolkit is targeted at local policymakers and stakeholders interested in reducing transportation-related fuel consumption in their communities. Policies addressed in the toolkit are divided into four key categories:

  • Policies to integrate land use and transportation that encourage the creation of compact, transit-oriented, and multi-use communities to enable access to additional transportation choices.
  • Policies that extend transit networks and create integrated street networks that are accessible to all road users be they in cars, on transit, on bikes, or on foot.
  • Pricing mechanisms that provide drivers with an incentive to change their driving behavior by charging more for inefficient travel choices. These mechanisms include congestion pricing...

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...