Where Do We Go Now, Energy Efficiency Community?

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Not so long ago compact flourescent lights were transformational. Today they are pretty much what many people pick up at the store when they need lights (unless they are buying LEDs.)

So what will the next phase of energy efficiency look like?

That’s the question asked and answered in a new report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, “New Horizons for Energy Efficiency: Major Opportunities to Reach Higher Electricity Savings by 2030.”

Don’t expect any new homerun tech, like the CFL that reaped big savings for utilities. Instead, the industry will need to pursue a larger set of measures, the report said.

To that end, ACEEE identified 18 possible measures to save energy that are not in widespread use. ACEEE included approaches that are cost effective and can decrease total annual electricity sales by 1 percent or more by 2030.  It also sprinkled in a few very promising measures whose savings potential, although difficult to estimate, amount to at least 0.5 percent.

None of these measures are blockbusters. The biggest energy saver, plug load, would reduce electric use only 3.4 percent by 2030. But together the measures could achieve savings of 15 to 31 percent in electricity use, the report said.

Most would cost 7.5 cents/kWh or less (based on a total resource cost) so would be cheaper than building a new natural-gas-fired power plant.

The 18 measures are:

  • High-efficiency residential appliances (refrigerators, clothes washers, and clothes dryers)
  • Residential LEDs targeted at current incandescent applications
  • Real-time feedback on energy use to promote customers’ conservation behaviors
  • Residential smart (learning) thermostats
  • Advanced residential air conditioners and heat pumps
  • Heat pump water heaters
  • Comprehensive residential retrofits
  • New construction programs targeting future model and state building codes
  • Large reductions in key targeted plug loads (miscellaneous energy loads)
  • Advanced commercial lighting design and controls
  • Advanced commercial rooftop air-conditioning units
  • Smart commercial buildings
  • Comprehensive commercial retrofits
  • Strategic energy management for large commercial and industrial customers
  • Energy performance labels for commercial and industrial equipment
  • Smart manufacturing
  • Conservation voltage reduction
  • Combined heat and power

None are new or surprising, but they tend to face hurdles to greater use. Good public policy and targeted utility programs could give them a boost.

For example, combined heat and power (CHP) has been around for over a century and is now used in 4,300 U.S. facilities. CHP capacity totals 82.7 GW (eight percent of US electric generating capacity). But ICF International estimates that the U.S. could technically incorporate 130 GW of CHP.

CHP growth is hampered by a variety of factors, one being that its benefits are not always monetized. For example, CHP can keep the lights on at a hospital or other critical facility during a crisis. And it is in fact often a part of a microgrid. Yet CHP receives no payment for this reliability and resiliency service. Finding a way to pay CHP operators for this service would go a long way in accelerating CHP use.

Several states have already laid out other roadmaps to accelerate CHP US – New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, California.

For example, Massachusetts and Maryland allow energy savings from CHP to count toward state energy efficiency or renewable energy goals. It’s a relatively simple change to boost an industry that offers benefit to society.

Take a look at ACEEE’s report for more examples of how these 18 measues can reap big savings. The report is available here.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.