With Great Investment, Comes Great Responsibility

In the Amazing Spiderman, Peter Parker’s uncle, Uncle Ben, leaves him with some words of wisdom that Parker carries with him throughout the Spiderman series: With great power, comes great responsibility. As someone who’s been tracking investment in energy efficiency in our region, a similar thought, which is the title of this post, comes to mind.

Investment in energy efficiency in our region is increasing rapidly. In just six years, expenditures on electric energy efficiency programs in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states more than doubled from $600 million in 2008 to more than $1.3 billion in 2013. ACEEE’s recently released State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which ranks states’ effort to promote energy efficiency across the US, ranks all states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region in the top 25, and 6 states in the top 10. That kind of leadership, coupled with a sharp increase in investment, comes with an increasing level of responsibility.

Today energy efficiency is being called upon to meet a growing number of energy and economic public policy goals in our region and across the country. It is being relied upon to help meet goals as varied as deferring investments in new energy infrastructure and reducing criteria air pollutants to job creation and improving the health, safety, and comfort of our homes and businesses. Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency has explicitly stated that energy efficiency can be used by power plants to comply with its proposed regulations for greenhouse gas emissions reductions under the Clean Air Act. The interest in this valuable resource is only increasing and it speaks to the tremendous positive effect that this resource has on society.

As this region continues to ramp up its investment in energy efficiency to meet a broad array of public policy goals, the need for transparency and consistency in documenting and reporting the impact of energy efficiency programs is as important as ever. In recognition of this need, the Regional Evaluation, Measurement and Verification Forum at NEEP has been working hard to help make these concepts a reality.

NEEP Posts Program Year 2013 Data to REED

The Regional Energy Efficiency Database (REED) serves as a common platform for the consistent reporting of electric and natural gas energy efficiency program information across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. NEEP is currently in the midst of analyzing the new information and will soon release an “executive summary” of sorts which will provide an overview of the high-level trends in energy efficiency programs at the state and regional level. Throughout 2015, NEEP also plans to publish a series of “deeper dive briefs” which will dig into certain sections of the data in more detail. The purpose of these briefings are to (1) look for comparisons across states that can help strengthen the credibility of energy efficiency as a resource by increasing our understanding of similarities and differences across programs by type, sector and state, (2) produce insight that can inform current planning, and (3) gain a deeper understanding of topics of interest to the folks who use REED. While you’re waiting for this deeper analysis to come out, here’s a flavor of what we’re seeing in the new data that were recently posted.

The new data reveal the continued strong performance of energy efficiency programs, with Massachusetts achieving net annual electric energy savings exceeding 2% of retail electric sales, and with Rhode Island and Vermont just under 2% at 1.93% and 1.75% respectively. While 2% may not seem that impressive, those savings stack on top of each other every year and have a significant impact on energy demand over time, which helps to offset load growth. In total, the nine REED jurisdictions saved over 3,719 GWh through their 2013 electric efficiency programs, equivalent to powering more than 350,000 homes for one year.

Even more impressive, these large energy savings are being achieved at a cost much lower than the cost of energy supply, at an average of less than 4 cents/kWh across the region. These highly effective programs show that the more than $1.3 billion that was spent on 2013 electric efficiency programs in the REED region was used wisely and produced impressive benefits.

EM&V Methods Standardized Reporting Forms

I just told you about some impressive savings numbers coming out of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, but in order to fully understand those numbers, it is important to know what underlying techniques and assumptions were used to arrive at those values. In 2013, the EM&V Forum embarked to create a model template that supports greater transparency of program administrator and state EM&V practices used to calculate savings through a straightforward, standardized EM&V methods ‘check list’.  This document is intended to help policy makers and market players readily understand and compare EM&V approaches used to estimate reported energy efficiency program savings.

The forms were developed with input from evaluation experts, program administrators, state regulatory staff and energy offices, and the independent system operators (ISOs), and were adopted by the Forum Steering Committee in July 2014.  In 2015, NEEP plans to develop a database to which completed forms can be uploaded and searched by users to readily understand and compare EM&V practices in their state and across the region. 

In the near future, NEEP plans to interface this database with REED so as to provide a single platform for accessing energy efficiency data and supporting resources. It’s our hope that together these tools help to support this growing resource as it becomes an increasing central (and responsible) part of the energy mix in our region.

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