Category Archives: Guest Contributors

NEEP invites guest contributors to blog about efficiency from their perspective. Get a peak at what these industry experts have to say.

The Utility of the Future: Shifting Regulatory Paradigm, or Demise of the Grid?

Massive grid defection could happen in the near future. A speaker at New England Electricity’s 141st Restructuring Roundtable, “The Electric Utility of the (Near?) Future; and The Promise of Storage for Renewables,” presented on the economic benefits of going off the grid, sending ripples through the packed audience that lined the walls and filled the overflowing room.

A commercial solar array on top of an office facility in Fall River MA, System installed and commissioned by Solar Installation LLC

A commercial solar array on top of an office facility in Fall River MA, System installed and commissioned by Solar Installation LLC

Clearly, this was a big deal. As a Public Policy Intern at NEEP, a meeting in Boston with the who’s who of the New England energy scene discussing major changes is the height of excitement. The June 27th Roundtable was moderated by Dr. Jonathan Raab of Raab Associates Ltd., and hosted a star-studded panel of energy leaders, whose presentations are available online.

The way we interact with the energy grid is evolving; the regulatory changes state governments make to create a modern Utility of the Future are crucial, as this is an issue that affects everyone on a daily basis.

Jon Creyts, a Managing Director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, began the morning by jumping into this highly contentious issue with his presentation entitled “The Economics of Grid Defection.” The goal of Creyts’s study was to establish a fact-base for where and when solar power coupled with battery storage hybrid power systems can compete with traditional utility service.

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How the Liberal Arts and a Semester in China Brought Me to Energy Efficiency

Lauren headshot

Lauren Vunderink, photographed near her hometown of Austin, Texas

“The future is coming fast,” Susan Coakley, founder and executive director of the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) told us in a recent staff meeting. That statement reflects the atmosphere here at NEEP, a forward-thinking group of people helping to organize, guide, and standardize energy efficiency information, legislation, and codes on both a regional and national level.

I am spending the summer in Lexington, Massachusetts as NEEP’s public policy intern, and have barely skimmed the surface of the vast amount of material and initiatives that NEEP is responsible for – the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region is a busy place for efficiency. I am assisting this active organization in any way I can, including reading and summarizing proposals, attending and summarizing meetings, and helping with new data organization software.

As an Anthropology major at Connecticut College, I find the production, use, impacts, and perception of energy sources to be fascinating aspects of modern societies, shaping their environments, economies, and public health. I have always been drawn to environmental issues; the Anthropology major and liberal arts education has allowed me to study a variety of topics, like history, economics, art, and science, encouraging the development of  multiple lenses through which issues can be understood. It struck me that changing our energy sources and the way we use energy can have positive economic, environmental, and social impacts.

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Critical Energy Decisions Ahead and the Role of Efficiency

Birud Jhaveri, Deputy Commissioner of Energy Policy & Assurance, Mass. Department of Energy

Birud Jhaveri, Deputy Commissioner of Energy Policy & Assurance, Mass. Department of Energy

This past winter, in my position at DOER, I watched wholesale gas and electricity prices spike to alarming levels. Demand was immense, and we at DOER worked closely with generators to ensure they had enough fuel to keep the lights on. New England faces a real challenge in meeting the continuing growth in peak electricity demand, reducing financial impacts, solving reliability problems and meeting environmental mandates.  The situation is exacerbated as more and more of the Commonwealth’s electric generation comes from natural gas, even while we face increasingly constrained gas supplies in winter.

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LED Lighting.. for Zoos!

Thanks to E Source for contributing some of their insights on commercial LED applications. Take it away Beth!

As LED lighting becomes more popular, a wide range of larger commercial industries can benefit from the significant energy savings potential from this promising technology. Energy research firm E Source works with utilities to help them evaluate a variety of programs including how best to serve these large commercial customers with LED lighting programs. Recently, we received this question from a member:

Q: Could you recommend types of pathway lights and ground lighting that would be best for a zoo in terms of energy efficiency and lighting?

"Do Not Disturb.."

“Do Not Disturb..”

In terms of energy efficiency and light quality for pathway lights and other ground lighting at a zoo, there are several important issues to consider like time-sensitive controls and color temperature related to animal sleep patterns. Overall, LEDs seem to be a popular option for energy-efficient lighting retrofits in zoos because of their long life, effectiveness in cutting costs over that life-time,  and vastly improved quality of light for visitors and the animals.

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What is the Return on Investment of Energy Efficiency?

Efficiency Vermont has added another piece to their ‘Energy Efficiency as an Investment’ repertoire. This infographic clarifies one of the most apparent benefits of energy efficiency, the ROI tends to be high!

As we’ve noted before, energy efficiency is a solid investment. New lighting, equipment, and processes all have upfront costs that are paid off over time through reduced energy bills. So, what kind of return do large businesses in Vermont see for their investment in energy efficiency? The graphic below shows a healthy return of 167% - even after taking their contributions to the energy efficiency charge into account. 

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Building Energy for Resiliency

Caitriona Cooke took some time out of her schedule to extol the benefits of better building design during an era riddled with more extreme weather patterns and to inform us of a great conference, Building Energy 2014, happening right around the corner in Boston.


Will you allow me a brief rant, if I share uplifting tales below? Here’s our problem: Mistakes are inevitable . . . but we have no excuses for repeated muck-ups. 

As complex systems within an even more complex system—the environment—building designs are prone to lots of mistakes. I find it hard to understand why so many professionals make the same mistakes repeatedly. Why this resistance to change? We have the information to avoid many of the mistakes that have proven so costly to our fellow citizens and the environment.

Resiliency “doesn’t just happen.”


A case in point: all the talk about reconstruction after superstorm Sandy. Rebuilding, in spite of evidence that both the frequency and intensity of storms is increasing— should at least make us consider whether it might be better to keep certain areas undeveloped. If we must rebuild, can’t we at least learn from our mistakes?

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Infographic: Energy Efficiency as an Investment

Thanks to Jim Merriam, and his team at Efficiency Vermont, for contributing this great piece comparing ROIs of some common investments with energy efficiency investments.

Jim Merriam

Jim Merriam, Director of Efficiency Vermont

When the Efficiency Vermont team works with our customers in businesses and homes, we acknowledge that the choice to use energy more wisely is often an investment. Sometimes it is as small as installing a 99 cent CFL bulb. Other projects are more expensive and complex, such as installing a variable frequency drive on a large motor, or working with a contractor to air seal and insulate an entire home. Understandably, the decision to move forward on those types of projects is not always an easy one.

Lately we’ve been thinking about other types of investments that people typically make, and how energy efficiency stacks up in comparison. Below, we consider the classic stock market investment – and, as it turns out, efficiency is the winner. Stay tuned for future posts where we see how efficiency investments play out for other home efficiency projects, and for businesses – with numbers that are even more impressive.

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Technology, Partnerships Help Shelters Save Energy and Money

Dave McMahon, Co-Executive Director of Dismas House

Dave McMahon, Co-Executive Director of Dismas House

Energy costs can be an enormous burden to social service providers who typically operate on a shoe-string, and often in older, in-efficient facilities. Finding ways to save energy is crucial to stretching our budgets and increasing comfort for residents— while also reducing environmental impact of our buildings.

The Worcester Green Low Income Housing Coalition (WGLIHC ) has been creating substantial reductions in energy costs for participating agencies in Central Massachusetts through energy audits and partnerships with state energy efficiency programs to insulate, install new heating equipment, utilize capital funds, and take advantage of state solar credits. These savings, tracked by Wegowise software, are creating opportunities to reinvest into the housing infrastructure and strengthen the standing of agencies after four years of poor revenue growth in the state.

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National Grid’s Energy Efficiency Programs Enhance Rhode Island’s Economy

Courtney Lane, Senior Analyst, National Grid Rhode Island

Courtney Lane, Senior Analyst, National Grid Rhode Island

At a time when states are still struggling to recover from the recession, investment in energy efficiency is providing a much needed boost. Investment in energy efficiency saves residents and businesses money on their energy bills, spurs investment in the local economy, and creates and maintains jobs.

Rhode Island is experiencing these benefits firsthand. A recent study by the New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC) Institute shows that National Grid’s 2012 Rhode Island energy efficiency programs led to the creation of 528 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs with an annual economic impact of $27 million in the state.

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Home Efficiency Beyond Energy

This piece was shared by 360 Chestnut.

This piece was shared by 360 Chestnut.

Its important to remember energy efficiency encompasses more than just energy bills and using CFLs for lightbulbs. At 360Chestnut we focus on home improvement solutions that are cost-effective, energy efficient and make a healthier home for you and your family. While there are dozens of tips we can give you to make the healthiest home possible, we are sticking with a 5 step plan to help you make improvements throughout your home. You may not see the difference in your energy bills but you will feel better about the health safety of your home.

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