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.

Cooling the Cloud: Binghamton PhD Student Sets Sights on Improving Data-Center Efficiency

Read the full story from Binghampton University.

Data centers — large clusters of servers that power cloud computing operations, e-commerce and more — are one of the largest and fastest-growing consumers of electricity in the United States.

The industry has been shifting from open-air cooling of these facilities to increasingly complex systems that segregate hot air from cold air. When it comes to cost savings, there are definite advantages to the aisle containment systems, which have been estimated to save 30 percent of cooling energy — but it’s not yet clear how they increase the risk of overheating, or how to design them for greatest safety and optimum energy efficiency.

That’s what Husam Alissa, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, is trying to determine at Binghamton University’s state-of-the-art Center for Energy-Smart Electronic Systems (ES2).


Bringing energy efficiency to the middle class

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Pay As You Save (PAYS) is a financing intervention that hopes to address the rural middle-income market by enabling utility customers to purchase and install cost-effective energy-efficiency upgrades without upfront payment, personal loans or property liens. PAYS was one of four interventions that won the Finance for Resilience (FiRe) prize at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Future of Energy Summit 2015.

Looking to Rent Energy-Efficient Housing?

Read the full story in Governing.

In an effort to make rentals more sustainable, 14 college towns banded together to create a website that shows people what they would pay in utilities.