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ACEEE Blog


May 22, 2012 - 2:11pm

By Casey Bell, Senior Economist and Finance Policy Lead


This month, ACEEE hosted its 6th Annual Energy Efficiency Finance Forum in Boston, Massachusetts. The event was attended by 250 representatives from utilities, banks, venture capital firms, energy efficiency program offices, real estate firms, nonprofit organizations, consulting firms, and state and local government offices. Participants enjoyed a rich program that featured presentations centered on this year’s theme of “Getting to Scale.”

Some overarching ideas from this year’s conference include:

Data, data, data: There are numerous models for energy efficiency financing available on the market today, but in order to tap into the full potential of private sector capital investment, we need to focus on not just collecting but meaningfully recording and reporting data on the financial performance of existing products. Perhaps more importantly, there is a need for standardization of existing data.

Kerry O’Neill, of the Clean Energy Finance Center, during a panel on developing a secondary market for energy efficiency finance, also suggested that the field may be missing a data aggregation platform. There appear to be many opportunities for leaders in the field to dialogue and coordinate efforts on this particular issue.

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May 22, 2012 - 10:23am

By Kate Farley, Research Assistant


Although Congress has been unable to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation so far, there is hope for energy efficiency legislation in the not-too-distant future. Energy efficiency is cost-effective and has the potential to give the economy a boost. And importantly, energy efficiency has bipartisan support.

This week, ACEEE released a white paper analyzing two pending energy efficiency bills: the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011, which was introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Rob Portman, and the Implementation of National Consensus Appliance Agreement Act of 2011 (or INCAAA), which was introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman

The Shaheen-Portman bill contains a variety of provisions designed to increase energy efficiency in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of the economy, such as establishing centers to train building engineers and technicians in energy-efficient methods, and a loan program to support industrial energy efficiency. INCAAA establishes new and revised efficiency standards for a variety of common household and commercial appliances based on consensus agreements between product manufacturers and energy...


May 10, 2012 - 12:39pm

By Anna Chittum, Senior Researcher


ACEEE is improving the methodology it uses to evaluate a state’s policies toward combined heat and power (CHP) for this year’s annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. The new analysis will incorporate lessons learned from prior years as well as feedback provided by the CHP community.

CHP is a suite of technologies that simultaneously generate electricity and thermal energy. These systems can provide reliable, cost-effective power to a wide range of types of buildings, from single-family homes and small commercial buildings to large institutions and energy-intensive manufacturing facilities. CHP systems run on a variety of fuels, including natural gas, biomass, and biogas, and are much more efficient than traditional centralized generation. For all these reasons ACEEE considers CHP a smart policy choice and worthy of preferential treatment by state governments and public utility commissions.

For almost a decade, we have tracked and analyzed how different states encourage the deployment of CHP. While the market for CHP varies dramatically with the local price of electricity and other factors, state policies also make a difference. States can offer financial incentives, financing assistance, preferential...


May 2, 2012 - 11:40am

By Eric Mackres, Local Policy Manager and Senior Researcher


This post is the third of three on sustaining local energy efficiency efforts. The first post described trends in local implementation of energy efficiency. The second was about the challenges and successes of local energy planning around the United States.

The last three years have been a productive period of trial and error for communities and initiatives around the country. During that time, federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) were distributed to thousands of local governments to be used for energy efficiency. Most local governments were new to implementing...


May 1, 2012 - 3:00pm

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


I will be speaking at the upcoming NCBC meeting in Nashville on May 15th.  The organizers and I decided to write a short blog with some ideas to help jump-start conversation and participation. In my keynote I will be talking about some of these ideas in more depth, in particular the idea of invented traditions. Today I thought I would stray a little bit into how we can create embodied traditions that work holistically (mind, body, and environment) to enhance memory and learning.

In order to permanently implement building commissioning practices that provide long-term savings, providers of commissioning services need to harness the processes of institutional culture change.  This requires an understanding of how people actually learn new practices.  A successful dialogue between the commissioning service provider and their client needs to take place...


May 1, 2012 - 9:33am

By Max Neubauer, Senior Policy Analyst


ACEEE has collaborated with state and local stakeholders for decades, arming them with valuable, up-to-date resources on energy efficiency to facilitate effective program and policy development and deployment. Recently we developed our State and Local Technical Assistance Toolkits in order to meet state and local governments’ disparate and often immediate needs for relevant resources on all things energy efficiency. Whether providing best-practice program design or policy approaches, ACEEE’s tools have been developed out of our experience working with policymakers and program managers. Our resources are intended to provide a solid foundation for achieving lasting energy savings and stimulating economic growth through energy efficiency.

In the absence of current federal leadership, the challenge of developing and implementing prudent energy policy has increasingly fallen on the shoulders of our state and local governments. Many have shown laudable initiative, enacting laws and designing programs that will make homes and buildings more efficient and communities cleaner and more livable, while others have lagged behind. State and local governments often lack the financial capital and technical resources to design and implement energy efficiency policies and...


April 26, 2012 - 3:41pm

By Ethan Rogers, Senior Manager, Industry


Supporters of industrial energy efficiency and combined heat & power (CHP) can breathe a sigh of relief, and might be allowed some guarded optimism as a result of the recent FY2013 appropriations mark-up by the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee (E&W) that was approved by the Committee on Appropriations Wednesday, April 25. The appropriation for the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO, formerly the Industrial Technology Program) is up $34 million over FY2012 to $150 million. This is particularly notable as funding for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) overall is down 24% (-$428 million) from FY2012 and $886 million less than the Administration requested.

The committee showed support for manufacturing and CHP in the committee report recognizing the value of AMO:

The Advanced Manufacturing Program, formerly ITP, will fund activities that help American Manufacturers compete in a...


April 23, 2012 - 12:04pm

By Patrick Kiker, Communications Associate


Yesterday was the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day, but as we are often reminded, every day is Earth Day. And it’s not too late to do your part to reduce pollution by saving energy, while at the same time saving money by cutting down your utility and gas bills. Spring is a great time to make some changes around your home; here are some simple things you can do today:

  • During your spring cleaning, don’t forget to change the filters in your air conditioners. There may be leaks you can’t see so consider a home energy audit—your utility company or state energy office can help.
  • While you’re cleaning, consider replacing your old light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescents (CFLs), halogen incandescents, or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Traditional incandescent bulbs, besides costing you more money and creating more pollution, generate a lot of heat, which you won’t want during the summer months.
  • Search your house for “vampire...


April 19, 2012 - 12:35pm

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


Recently I spoke at the 2012 E Source Utility Customer Experience Conference in Charlotte, where I was invited to talk about user-centered design and the role of ethnography in helping utilities design programs to more effectively reach their customers and change their energy use behaviors. This topic dovetails nicely with my webinar, “Strawberries and Wheat,” which I delivered for the Yale Center for Business and the Environment two months back where I discussed utility branding practices and customer segmentation. In my E Source presentation, we look at examples from the high-tech world, like Apple, which design “with the user in mind.” User-centered design (UCD) and user-experience testing (UX) are both deeply embedded in the high tech sector, since the concepts emerged in Silicon Valley over 30 years ago. 

Since the 1970s, big think tanks like Xerox PARC and SRI have employed anthropologists and other qualitative researchers and social scientists in a quest to better understand how people use things, whether they are physical objects like mice and keyboards and copiers, or abstract products, like software and information architecture. These early beginnings have burgeoned into a large...


April 12, 2012 - 11:41am

By Ethan Rogers, Senior Manager, Industry


Is it possible that something as mundane as the treatment of depreciation by the federal tax code could be negatively impacting investments in energy efficiency? That is the question ACEEE attempts to answer in the new white paper, Depreciation: Impacts of Tax Policy. The paper is the third in a series of four working papers that examine how tax reform might encourage or discourage investments in energy efficiency.

When considering tax reform, it is important to examine how the current code, and potential changes to the code, provides incentives or disincentives for desirable actions. Ideally the code should encourage rather than discourage actions useful to society. For example, the tax code includes incentives for home ownership (e.g., home interest costs are deductible) and there have been various reforms and proposed reforms to eliminate disincentives to marriage (e.g., removing the “marriage penalty”). Among the actions we would like to encourage, and not discourage, are cost-effective energy efficiency investments (about half of the primary energy in the United States is consumed by commercial and industrial entities, not including energy used for transportation). There is enormous potential for businesses to reduce energy...