Residential energy efficiency works. Don’t make a mountain out of the E2e molehill

Read the full post from ACEEE.

The Internet has been burning up these last two days with reactions to a new academic working paper (Do Energy Efficiency Investments Deliver? Evidence from the Weatherization Assistance Program) by researchers at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and the University of California, Berkeley, associated with the E2e Project.

Let me be blunt and to the point. The “results” of this very narrowly focused and arguably conceptually flawed study are being blown out of proportion, with many news article headlines taking this one example as representative of all residential energy efficiency programs. Unfortunately, this flawed conclusion has been promoted by the Energy Policy Institute themselves in their press release and accompanying policy brief.

For those not yet familiar with this story, the authors conducted a study of one particular low-income program (the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP), as implemented in portions of one state (Michigan), and somehow ended up with the sweeping headline “Study Finds Costs of Residential Energy Efficiency Investments are Double the Benefits.”

Some of the popular press is already picking up on this theme, and the concern is that a misunderstanding (or misuse) of this study will lead to low-income families having less access to important programs that drive down their utility bills. Or worse yet, as a broad-brush attack on all types of energy efficiency programs.

Evaluation wonks will be able to point to several minor to moderate problems with the study’s assumptions and calculations. But in the interest of time, let me focus on two fundamental flaws in the study and how the results are being “spun.”

When convenience is the enemy of energy conservation

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Exciting new gadgets such as the Amazon Dash button highlights the role convenience plays in clinching customer loyalty. But there’s an unintended consequence related to convenience: overconsumption.

We know from Eco Pulse that convenience trumps the environment for many Americans, and although about 70 percent of Americans claim they’re searching for greener products, the story in our numbers is that most of them actually just want sustainability to be automatic. They’re essentially saying, “Just bake it into your products and services so I don’t have to think about it, and let me keep buying the stuff I want to buy anyway and just feel less guilty about it.”

Our counsel to many companies would be exactly that: give them what they want, bake it in and build your marketing messages around the fact that you’ve taken care of the environment on their behalf.

But that doesn’t work if we’re actually trying to get people to change their behaviors. In many cases, when we make sustainability automatic, we make conservation harder.

Everyone Benefits: Practices and Recommendations for Utility System Benefits of Energy Efficiency

Download the document.

This report details the wide range of benefits of energy efficiency to the electric utility system, including traditional avoided cost of energy as well as many other economic benefits. These benefits accrue to all utility customers, including those who have not participated in programs. The report also discusses the ways in which efficiency program administrators currently quantify these benefits. Many states lack coherent policy regarding which utility system benefits should be included in cost-effectiveness testing. As a result, utilities and jurisdictions omit relevant benefits, leaving cost-effective energy efficiency and significant cost savings on the table. Finally, the report reviews quantitative benefits of energy efficiency in integrated resource plans and makes recommendations for improving the analysis of utility system benefits in cost-effectiveness screening.

Barriers to Industrial Energy Efficiency – Report to Congress

Download the document.

This report examines barriers that impede the adoption of energy efficient technologies and practices in the industrial sector, and identifies successful examples and opportunities to overcome these barriers. Three groups of energy efficiency technologies and measures were examined: industrial end-use energy efficiency, industrial demand response, and industrial combined heat and power. This report also includes the estimated economic benefits from hypothetical Federal energy efficiency matching grants, as directed by the Act.

How to make the utility of the future an energy-efficient one: New ACEEE report series charts the course for aligning utility business models and energy efficiency

Read the full post from ACEEE.

Utilities have traditionally earned profits by simply selling more energy and building more power plants and infrastructure, which put their financial motivations squarely at odds with the goal of greater energy efficiency. Luckily, that business model has started to change, which is good news for the nation’s economy, environment, and for consumers who want more options for saving energy in their homes and businesses. With the proper regulatory tools in place, utilities’ financial motivations can be aligned with energy efficiency outcomes. As regulators, utilities, and other stakeholders begin to consider utility business models for the 21st century, they can look to recent state experience for insight into how to effectively incorporate energy efficiency as a utility system resource.

ACEEE has been researching this issue for years, and today we are releasing a series of three new reports on a range of topics related to utility business models and energy efficiency. We examined practices state by state across the United States, interviewed stakeholders for case studies of several state examples, and documented lessons learned. Here is a snapshot of our key findings:

This is why people are so clueless about how much energy they use

Read the full story from the Washington Post.

Nobody really disputes that saving energy is a good thing — we pay less on our bills when we do, and cause fewer carbon emissions to boot. Getting people to cut back, though, has often proved pretty tricky. We like our comforts and routines. And, if a new study is to believed, we widely misperceive where the bulk of our energy use comes from — thinking that devices such as computers use much more energy than they actually use, even as we underestimate the contributions of major energy gluttons, such as home and water heating.

DOE Resources Help Measure Building Energy Benchmarking Policy & Program Effectiveness

The Energy Department has released two resources to help stakeholders analyze the energy, non-energy, and market transformation impacts of building energy benchmarking policies and programs. The first is a handbook that provides methodologies for jurisdictions to use to analyze the impact of their benchmarking policies and programs. The second resource demonstrates the methodologies using real data from New York City’s benchmarking ordinance, Local Law 84 (LL84). Building energy benchmarking is the process of measuring how efficiently a building uses energy relative to the other similar buildings over time.

The DOE Benchmarking & Transparency Policy and Program Impact Evaluation Handbook provides cost-effective, standardized analytic methods for determining gross and net energy reduction, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions mitigation, job creation and economic growth impacts. The Handbook also provides an extensive, holistic framework for evaluating the market transformation progress of benchmarking policies. It is a “how-to” guide with clear procedures and data requirements, permitting any jurisdiction or interested party—such as consultants, researchers, or government officials—to assess benchmarking polices in a consistent manner.

DOE also sponsored the New York City Benchmarking and Transparency Policy Impact Evaluation Report, which uses the methodologies detailed in the Handbook to evaluate results to date from New York City’s benchmarking policy, LL84. The report finds that between 2010 and 2013—the first four years of LL84—buildings covered by the ordinance reduced their energy use by 5.7% and lowered their GHG emissions by 8.3%, and that the benchmarking efforts directly created 39 jobs as well another roughly 7,000 jobs created through the resulting energy-efficiency activities. These figures are particularly encouraging given that during the same period the gross domestic product in New York City grew by 4.2% and the cost of electricity fell by 8.4%; despite these trends, covered buildings still reduced their energy use. Furthermore, the report notes that awareness of building energy performance is growing in New York City, and that building energy use information is playing an increasingly important role in real estate decisions.

These encouraging results—which were derived from the methodologies outlined in the Handbook suggests that market change from  benchmarking policies and programs is underway and expected to grow. As more jurisdictions around the country recognize the value of benchmarking and use it to better understand and optimize their buildings’ energy use, they can leverage the Handbook to analyze the impact of their policies and programs.