Tag Archives: Energy Efficiency

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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Efficiency’s Climate Manifesto

Energy Efficiency has an impediment when it comes to being recognized as a climate solution – it lacks oomph appeal. It doesn’t have Solar energy’s dazzling solar arrays glinting in the brilliant radiance of the sun. Nor does it have Wind energy’s elegantly arching wind mills, so sophisticated and alluring so as to capture the mind of Don Quixote. It doesn’t even have Hydropower’s ferocious tumble and roar of water. Nope, it has none of that. What does it have? It has regulations, excel spreadsheets and technological advances. Energy efficiency is full of abstraction – at best it has cold data.

Climate change

“Energy efficiency needs to go from a ‘hidden fuel’ to a ‘first fuel’ as it exceeds the output from ANY OTHER fuel source.”

But guess what? Climate change is knocking at our door. Deniers troll the internet, Congress has been reduced to a sideshow of an all-nighter, and the international treaties are a stalled frustration.  Meanwhile, in the face of all that nonsense, energy efficiency is getting the job done. The United Nation’s Environmental Program launched a new initiative, ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ (SE4ALL), and will be relying heavily on Energy Efficiency as one of their main pillars for success. Voluntary efficiency programs, such as ENERGY STAR under the Environmental Protection Agency, have saved 1.9 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas over the past two decades. So, those excel spreadsheets end up looking pretty impressive.

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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.

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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.”

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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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More Data, Fewer Problems: REED Releases 2012 Data

NEEP’s Regional Energy Efficiency Database now includes program year 2012 data from nine jurisdictions in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions!

300,000? That's a lot of homes...

300,000? That’s a lot of homes…

The 2012 data reveals the continued strong performance of energy efficiency programs, with two REED states, Massachusetts and Vermont, achieving net annual electric energy savings exceeding 2% of retail electric sales.  While 2% may not seem that impressive at first blush, this level of savings has a significant impact on energy demand, helping to offset load growth.  Surpassing the 2% mark also represents a significant achievement for energy efficiency programs compared to the level of savings in years past.  In total, the nine REED jurisdictions saved over 3,240 GWh through their 2012 energy efficiency programs, equivalent to powering nearly 300,000 homes for one year.

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New Buildings Resources Available this March

Multi-family Housing

Residential Multi-family properties represent not only a significant share of the housing stock in NEEP’s region, but a significant opportunity to capture energy efficiency savings through cost-effective retrofit measures. The white paper entitled  “Increasing Energy Efficiency in Small Multifamily Properties in the Northeast: Recommendations for Policy Action”  includes information on market characterization, data analysis, market barriers, ratepayer-funded multifamily energy efficiency program case studies and policy recommendations  including:

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  • Building Energy Rating and Disclosure
  • Energy efficiency heating fuel programs
  • Financing policy

For more information contact krose@neep.org or dport@neep.org

Northeast CHPS Version 3.0

The Northeast Collaborative for High Performance Schools (Northeast CHPS) is a set of building and design standards for all schools from pre-K through community colleges. It is based on the pioneering CHPS guide for the building of energy efficient, environmentally friendly, healthy school facilities. It has been tailored specifically for state code requirements, the New England climate, and the environmental priorities of the region.

Claiborne Pell Elementary School, Newport RI

Claiborne Pell Elementary School, Newport RI

In 2006 NEEP purchased a license from CHPS to create, with input from regional stakeholders, the NE-CHPS criteria. Since then, over 37 schools have been built or renovated to NE-CHPS standards. Using the lessons learned from these school and best practices from across the country, including the CHPS Core Criteria , NEEP’s regional leadership group — comprised of state agencies, utility program administrators, health advocates, facilities managers, architects and engineers — has been working to update NE-CHPS to version 3.0.

Now in the final stages of review, the new version will include:

  • Greater focus on occupant engagement
  • Crime prevention through environmental design
  • Enhanced commissioning of building systems
  • District level commitment to sustainability
  • Benchmarking
  • Improved acoustics requirements
  • zEPI (Zero Energy Performance Index) scale available as a reference

For more information please contact csarno@neep.org or bbuckley@neep.org

Energy Efficiency Policy Tracker: February 2014

Here’s our brief rundown on key developments in energy efficiency policy from around the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states NEEP is keeping tabs on.

Data Moment: Electricity Use Decoupling from Economic Growth, BP Finds

Source: BP, Annual Energy Outlook for 2035, p. 16

Source: BP, Annual Energy Outlook for 2035, p. 16

Last month, Brad Plumer of the Washington Post reported that BP found in its Annual Energy Outlook for 2035 that energy consumption is gradually decoupling from economic growth. The graph below is yet more evidence that we are making significantly progress, through policy and through markets, to become more energy efficient.

New England Governors’ Statement on Energy Infrastructure

The New England Governors released a statement in December calling for the states to work together on a regional energy infrastructure investment initiative that “diversifies our energy supply portfolio while ensuring that the benefits and costs of transmission and pipeline investments are shared appropriately among the New England states.” While the governor’s statement was widely seen as expressing their intent to expand gas pipeline capacity and create new electric transmission to bring hydropower from Canada into the region (for which the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) has petitioned ISO-New England’s assistance), they also re-iterated their support for energy efficiency as a key resource to be included in load forecasting and transmission planning. The recent electricity price spikes in our region demonstrate the importance of our natural gas energy efficiency programs to ensuring reasonably-priced electricity.

ISO-New England & Energy Efficiency

  • ISO-New England is undertaking two initiatives that have significant implications for energy efficiency resources in the Northeast region. First, it has release a preliminary draft of its 2017-2023 Energy Efficiency Forecast. The forecast, which predicts energy and capacity savings based on state energy efficiency budgets, shows that energy efficiency resources will reduce annual electricity consumption by about 1,550 GWh and peak demand by 210 MW per year. The result according to ISO: “Generally, energy remains flat in the region with notable reductions in energy in VT and RI.” ISO welcomes comments on the draft through March 3 at eeforecast@iso-ne.com.
  • ISO-New England has also filed a proposal with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to alter the Forward Capacity Market (FCM) by creating a “Pay-for-Performance” mechanism. Under the new rules, ISO-NE would require participating resources to perform during shortage events; non-performers would be penalized, while performing resources would be rewarded. A number of stakeholders have expressed concerns with the proposal, in part because it creates uncertainty about whether energy efficiency resources will be able to continue to participate in the FCM under the new rules. Energy efficiency resources are passive by their nature and cannot be dispatched in real-time. For more background as well as an alternative proposal from the Northeast Power Pool (NEPOOL), see ISO’s blog here. A final ruling is expected by FERC by May 14, 2014.
Source: ISO-New England, 2013 Regional System Plan

Source: ISO-New England, 2013 Regional System Plan

Oil Heat Energy Efficiency

The U.S. Congress recently passed the Farm Bill, and along with it, it re-authorized the Oilheat Efficiency, Renewable Fuel and Jobs Training Act, informally known as the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA). NORA allows oilheat retailers to pay a small assessment on heating oil sales in twenty-three states to support programs that benefit oilheat customers. Fifteen (15) percent of these funds will go towards energy efficiency measures and oilheat system replacements, which will allow some oilheat dealers to provide energy efficiency services to their customers. While the impact of such federal action will be impactful, NEEP continues to work with our allies in supporting state oilheat efficiency legislation, such as H. 2741 in Massachusetts that would allow for much greater investments in energy efficiency resources for homes and businesses that rely on oilheat.

State Energy Efficiency Proceedings

  • New York Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) Restructuring Proposal: New York Public Service Commission (PSC) issued a significant order in December approving many changes to the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) that were outlined in a proposal  by Department of Public Service (DPS) staff this fall. Importantly, the PSC sets in a motion a process to create a new stakeholder advisory board that will replace the current advisory groups, require NYSERDA and the utilities to work together to benchmark their energy efficiency programs and reduce duplication, and revise cost-effectiveness screening methods to move away from requiring programs to screen at the measure level.

The PSC is also exploring new energy and environmental goals for its EEPS programs for the years beyond the 2015, when the current set of programs is set to end. New York is widely seen as having an excellent policy, but has not been able to reach its aggressive energy efficiency goals. Advocates hope that this order can be the first step in re-vamping their energy efficiency programs (NEEP’s comments on the EEPS Restructuring proposal can be seen here).­

  • EmPOWER Maryland 2015-2017 Programs: Maryland stakeholders, led by the Maryland Energy Administration, continue to move forward to renew and continue their energy efficiency programs beyond 2014, when the current program year ends. The EmPOWER Working Group is seeking to alter its avoided cost methodology, how it screens programs for cost-effectiveness, and create a potential study to set savings targets for future years. NEEP has recently worked with MEA and other advocacy groups to provide comment to the Cost-Effectiveness working group and our comments can be seen here.
  • Vermont Demand Resources Plan: The Vermont Public Service Board has begun to consider savings targets and budgets for its 2015-2017 electric energy efficiency utilities as part of the latest Demand Resources Plan proceeding (EEU 2013-01). Among the various scenarios being considered is an aggressive savings level of 3 percent of electric sales by 2019 proposed by VEIC. Comments on the various scenarios are due to the Public Service Board by March 12, with a final decision expected on budgets and savings targets expected in May.

State Legislatures & Energy Efficiency Bills

State legislatures around the region have begun their 2014 legislative sessions. While most will have short sessions because of upcoming mid-term elections, there are still important energy efficiency measures on the table. We are paying particularly close attention to Delaware, where a major energy efficiency title, HB 179, is under consideration, as well as New Hampshire, which continues to discuss how to expand its investments in energy efficiency. And as it’s early in the year, much more is surely on its way. For a list of energy efficiency legislation NEEP is tracking, click here.

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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They use Incandescent bulbs? That was so 1879

As NEEP bids farewell to the incandescent light bulb, and congratulates ten cities in the United States for their embrace of efficient lighting, Congress has, unfortunately, yielded to obstinate consumers. Congress’ recent budget deal denies the U.S. Department of Energy funding to enforce new efficient lighting standards for lamps, which have disqualified the traditional incandescent light bulb. Thankfully, the new efficiency standard for light bulbs established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) will go into effect, even though DOE is restricted in its enforcement of that standard. This is disappointing given that energy and cost savings are lost due to stubborn consumers and their outdated preferences for incandescent bulbs.

incandescent-stockpile-lady

I share my colleague’s belief in the winning recipe of ‘Innovation and Regulation’ to reduce energy consumption, fuel cost, and environmental degradation.  By ignoring the advances made nationally and regionally, this attempted halt of EISA would only harm the United States economy. American manufacturers have moved on, and have already innovated and adapted to the new standards. However, with DOE unable to enforce this standard, Congress’ actions would leave less-stringent foreign manufacturers to flaunt the law. In fact, since California adopted EISA’s standards a year before it went into effect nationally, manufacturers have been prepared ever since. In a recent study by ASAP, efficiency standards are found to have no drawback on performance, features, or price (including electricity bill savings). Congress’ misguided efforts can only hinder that innovation and development, especially when the Northeast is a leader in energy efficiency.

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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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Join NEEP at the 2014 Smart Energy Summit: Engaging the Consumer

A big priority to emerge from NEEP’s Business and Consumer Electronics Strategy is capturing the significant energy efficiency gains from “smarter” energy use in the home. New all-in-one home energy management software is becoming increasingly available to those willing to change their energy consuming behaviors.

So how do we change deeply entrenched behavioral patterns to align with more energy efficient usage? One way that’s been working for energy efficiency thus far is to offer enticing incentives.

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