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February 6, 2013 - 6:30pm

By Sara Hayes, Senior Manager and Researcher, Policy and Utilities

Energy efficiency is good for the environment, electric reliability, and customers’ pocketbooks, and yet some utilities continue to balk. A new report on decoupling shows that utilities can collect revenues lost due to energy efficiency measures without harming customers. First, a bit of background is helpful….

The bulk of most people’s energy bills is based on the volume of electricity or gas they buy. In most cases, that volume—in kilowatt hours (kwh) or therms—is multiplied by an electric or gas rate. Energy efficiency helps customers to reduce the kwh or therms they need to...

January 31, 2013 - 11:01am

By Andrew deLaski, Executive Director, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)

In his Inaugural Speech last week, President Obama described action to limit climate change as both a moral imperative and smart economic policy. Calling for American leadership, he said, “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries—we must claim its promise.”

Unfortunately, of late, the administration has failed to lead in one area that is firmly in the President’s hands: saving energy and cutting pollution through improved appliance and equipment energy-efficiency standards.

Over the past two years, the administration has missed deadline after deadline for completing new or updated standards for products ranging from microwave ovens to commercial refrigerators to industrial motors. These delays impose a steep cost. 

In a new analysis completed this week by ASAP and ACEEE, we found that the delays to date for eight overdue standards will result in about 40 million metric tons of excess carbon dioxide emissions.  Consumers and businesses will also lose—about $3.7 billion so far.

Our analysis shows that each additional month of delay means consumers and businesses will lose another $300 million in savings and another 4.4 million...

January 17, 2013 - 11:11am

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

The impact that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has had on the energy picture in the U.S. has been profound. Natural gas prices have plummeted. Supplies have increased sharply. The long-term outlook for natural gas is a radical departure from historic trends, with apparently abundant supplies and low costs forecast, rather than scarcity and high prices. It’s no wonder that natural gas fracking has overshadowed almost all other energy news of the past year. But it’s not the only energy story of importance.

Over the past decade, many states have established policies intended to push the envelope of what is possible through improved energy efficiency to lower energy costs, improve the environment, and promote economic development. A primary means to achieve these objectives has been energy efficiency programs serving electric and natural gas customers. With over three decades of experience in some states, these programs have reaped tremendous energy savings over the years.

This past success has been the driver behind state policies that have set high savings targets for these programs. The energy efficiency envelope has been pushed from a number of other policy directions. Higher appliance and equipment standards are in place for an ever wider range of consumer and business products. Numerous states are strengthening building codes that greatly increase...

January 15, 2013 - 2:26pm

By Andrew deLaski, Executive Director, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)

In a dose of bad news yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposed to settle a lawsuit brought by the American Public Gas Association (APGA) that seeks to roll back gas furnace efficiency standards. As a result, the new standards, completed in 2011 and slated to take effect this May, would be eliminated in favor of yet another round of DOE hearings and studies. The losers: consumers and the environment. The bill: more than $10 billion in lost savings and an extra 80 to 130 million metric tons of completely unnecessary global warming emissions, according to DOE’s analysis.

With new evidence piling up confirming that we need to be seriously ramping up efforts to stave off the worst effects of climate change, now is a lousy time to go backwards on simple steps like improved home heating energy efficiency. Space heating remains the single largest home energy use. The standards would have required that gas furnaces installed in the northern half of the country reach 90% or better efficiency. Today’s basic furnaces have an efficiency of just 80%, so the standards would have...

January 10, 2013 - 1:15pm

By Rachel Young, National Policy Research Analyst

Just in time for tax season, Congress has given American homeowners and businesses a chance to keep a little more of their hard-earned money. Late on January 1, 2013, the “fiscal cliff showdown” ended with the House passing a bill to avert income tax increases for Americans and large cuts in spending for government programs. What many might not have noticed is that the bill, titled the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, includes extensions for energy efficiency tax incentives that had expired at the end of 2011.

The bill extends tax credits for energy efficiency upgrades to existing homes, including purchases made in 2012 and 2013. These residential tax credits cover up to 10% of the cost for energy-efficient new central air conditioners, heat pumps, water heaters, windows, insulation, ENERGY STAR metal...

January 3, 2013 - 12:45pm

By Michelle Vigen, Research Analyst

Welcome to the New Year! 

On January 1 of each year, 40–50% of Americans make a New Year’s Resolution. The most common resolutions we find ourselves making include quitting smoking, losing weight, and exercising more. In other words, New Year’s Resolutions often reflect a desire to change a behavior.

Changing a behavior is difficult; changing habits or adding a new one is not easy. The good news is that making the right choices and preparing for success (see our tips below) can increase your chance of making a resolution stick. In a 2002 study by Dr. John Norcross, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, researchers studied “resolvers” compared with “non-resolvers” who were pursuing a behavior change and found that 46% of the resolvers were still successful at the 6-month mark compared to 4% of the non-resolvers.

While 46% is impressive, most of us would prefer to have higher chances at success.

At ACEEE, the Behavior & Human Dimensions program’s research revolves around how to cost-effectively foster energy efficiency behavior change. In many cases, successful change is a question of how to smooth the path between intention and action. Whether your resolution is to reduce your...

January 2, 2013 - 1:51pm

By Steven Nadel, Executive Director

2012 was a good year for energy efficiency, and 2013 portends to be even better.

In 2012, states, municipalities, and federal agencies largely completed their energy efficiency programs using funds from the 2009 federal stimulus. Notable milestones included weatherizing more than 1 million low-income homes and apartments and establishing energy efficiency loan programs in more than 30 states.

Utility-sector spending on energy efficiency continued to increase. While 2012 data are not yet available, ACEEE found that 2011 spending was $7 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion from the year before. A number of states established new energy efficiency policies including higher savings targets in Connecticut and Massachusetts, renewed (but level) targets in...

December 20, 2012 - 10:52am

By Sara Hayes, Senior Manager and Researcher, Policy and Utilities

Last month the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its World Energy Outlook 2012 and unfortunately the world outlook is not so good. To be more precise, a key conclusion of the report is that “Taking all new developments and policies into account, the world is still failing to put the global energy system onto a more sustainable path.” The report forecasts dramatic increases in global energy consumption and found that subsidies for fossil fuels increased by almost 30% from 2010, amounting to $523 billion in 2011. All of this in spite of a long-term global effort to find a solution to climate change. 

Unfortunately, this version of the future doesn’t depart much from what we’ve seen in the past. Certainly there are new findings, but a future where global energy consumption increases dramatically as China, India, and other non-OECD countries develop has been on the horizon for a while. However, the really critical findings in this latest version of the Outlook relate to an opportunity for global leaders to take control of this future by balancing the world’s energy...

December 19, 2012 - 6:18pm

By Steven Nadel, Executive Director

Much of the equipment and production processes in America’s factories are decades old and not as efficient as modern equipment and processes in use by many of our international competitors. While some factories have been modernized, many have not. Modernizing these factories will allow them to better compete in world markets by improving product quality and reducing product costs, including savings through reduced energy use. Modernization of our factories will build on several competitive advantages the U.S. now has—low electric and natural gas prices (relative to the rest of the world) and lower labor costs due to higher productivity.

As we emerge from the Great Recession, many industrial firms have capital to invest, but a nudge from the tax code could spur substantial additional investments here in the U.S.  We suggest three possible tax policies that could spur investment in a new ACEEE working paper. The paper recognizes that any incentives need to be low cost because of concerns about the federal budget deficit and a desire by many tax reform proponents to reduce tax rates by reducing tax expenditures.

The first policy we examine would allow repatriation of company...

December 7, 2012 - 4:49pm

By Sara Hayes, Senior Manager and Researcher, Policy and Utilities

This week in Doha, Qatar, world leaders are struggling with how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fast enough, and in amounts great enough, to protect people from the droughts, food shortages, rising sea levels, and severe weather events that climate change is likely to bring.

Leaders are debating a range of solutions including carbon sequestration and policies and practices to help people prepare for the effects of climate change (“adaptation”). In fact, world leaders have been meeting to discuss possible solutions to climate change for 20 years. Yet the cheapest, cleanest, and fastest resource the world has for reducing greenhouse gas emissions remains vastly underused: energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency means better practices and technological innovations that reduce energy consumption while getting the same or better results. Airtight houses that keep people comfortable. Cities with clean, fast public transit, light bulbs that produce the same amount of light for a fraction of the energy...