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Focused on their short-term profitability and survival, many industrial facilities are only willing to invest in energy efficiency projects if they pay for themselves in 1 to 2 years.
As shown in Figure 1, utility incentives help industrial facilities implement energy efficiency projects with longer payback periods than projects they would normally pursue on their own.
Caption: On their own, industrial companies typically only fund energy efficiency projects that have a payback period of two years or less. Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) in Utah offers a comprehensive suite of energy efficiency programs for industrial and large customers, including prescriptive and custom incentives, technical assistance, training in SEM principles, and co-funding for energy managers.
Xcel Energy's Process Efficiency (PE) Program is a multi-year planning and technical assistance program for large and medium-size industrial customers.
RMP's and Xcel Energy's programs help large customers implement deeper and more energy efficiency projects than they would implement on their own.
Neil Kolwey is a Senior Associate at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), where he leads programs to advance energy efficiency in the industrial sector. TweetThe effort and resources that US utilities devote to improving energy efficiency vary widely, according to a new report.
The report, entitled Benchmarking Electric Utility Energy Efficiency Portfolios in the US, shows that while some utilities are leading the way in the field, others still show great room for improvement. The report was based on data provided by utilities to the Energy Information Administration. Ceres said that of the 50 utilities analyzed in the report, the energy savings the companies were able to achieve range from a low of 0.1 percent of retail sales to nearly two percent at the top of the pile. According to the survey, there is a positive correlation between the power of state energy efficiency policy and the level of investment and savings of individual utilities. The report said many of the utilities analyzed are retiring aging power plants and converting to cleaner energy sources. In Energy 3.0, Rudy Provoost, CEO of Rexel, offers a reading of the energy world of tomorrow, between digital convergence, decentralization of the production and the energy transition.
Current energy efficiency policies could offset projected growth in electricity demand over the next decade and a half. From 2006 to 2010, spending on utility-funded energy efficiency programs doubled from $2 billion to $4.8 billion.
Barbose and three other analysts at LBNL recently looked at the influence of utility-funded efficiency policies being deployed around the country, projecting sustained growth over the next decade and a half.
Historically, utility energy efficiency programs were mostly located in the Northeast and West, where more progressive regulatory policies have been in place.
The steady ramp-up of these utility targets, some of which are designed to sustain reductions in electricity consumption by 2 percent a year, would reduce growth in electricity sales by 0.04 percent under a medium investment scenario. But there are a number of factors that could determine the effectiveness of these programs.


If the economy remains sluggish and the real estate market doesn't pick back up, customer adoption of energy efficiency retrofits may also be surpressed.
Competition between the federal government and states will also influence how utilities roll out their programs. If recent experience is an indication, energy efficiency standards will likely have a strong impact even with so many uncertainties. Stephen Lacey is the Managing Editor at Greentech Media, where he reports on energy efficiency, solar and grid modernization.
Utility programs provide other services as well, including technical assistance and training. To help avoid investments in new power plants (with a 10-30 year time horizon), it makes sense for utilities to provide incentives to help industrial facilities implement energy efficiency projects that these facilities would not normally fund on their own.
Self-direction programs allow large customers to put their energy efficiency surcharge payments into a fund from which the customer can draw to invest in energy efficiency projects. Through RMP's energy project manager co-funding program and the accompanying free training, a large industrial company in Utah hired a new energy manager in 2014.
After an initial energy assessment, PE customers and Xcel Energy sign an agreement that outlines the projects the customer will pursue over a three-year period, as well as the incentives that the utility will provide. These programs provide significant value to these customers and keep them engaged and satisfied with their utilities. Neil promotes best practices in utility energy efficiency programs for industrial customers throughout the region. The report, published by Ceres, a nonprofit organization focusing on sustainability challenges, and energy and environmental advisors M.J.
The top ten ranking utilities managed savings of one percent of their annual electricity sales.
Ceres said this shows that state policies that remove unintended disincentives are a big driver of utility spending on energy efficiency. Some of the worst performers included Metropolitan Edison and Ohio Edison (both subsidiaries of First Energy), Georgia Power, Alabama Power and Mississippi Power(Southern Company subsidiaries) and Duke subsidiary Duke Energy Indiana.
While future growth won't be quite as dramatic, investments in programs to reduce electricity and natural gas consumption are expected to double again by 2025.
In 2010, more than 70 percent of spending on efforts to reduce electricity and natural gas consumption occurred in those regions. According to LBNL, that could potentially offset all electricity load growth projected by the Energy Information Administration through 2025.
At the same time, lawmakers and regulators will be increasingly sensitive to the costs of these programs, particularly if incentive levels are increased due to slower-than-expected adoption rates.
If natural gas prices remain suppressed, the benefits of lowering consumption are greatly reduced.


As the Department of Energy establishes minimum efficiency standards for appliances and industrial equipment, the baseline for efficiency rises. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy, there are now twenty-four states with Energy Efficiency Resource Standards -- accounting for 67 percent of electricity sales in the U.S. Several utilities in the Southwest have developed innovative programs that are leveraging this potential and helping industrial customers achieve significant energy efficiency improvements. These programs are a good alternative to opt-out policies, since they encourage large customers to invest in energy efficiency projects rather than losing their surcharge money.
After the 12-month performance period, the customer documented energy savings of 4.5 GWh per year, for which it received $113,000 from RMP to pay for the energy manager's salary. Terumo BCT, a blood component and cellular technologies company, has been engaged with the PE program since 2011, and has implemented 18 projects (including projects planned for 2016). Neil also promotes policies to support combined heat and power, and supports SWEEP’s efforts to include energy efficiency in state compliance plans under the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
Much of that growth will be driven by targets set by state legislatures that are known as Energy Efficiency Resource Standards.
Energy efficiency standards and renewable energy standards that factor in efficiency as a resource will account for 72 percent of that spending.
But as more states implement efficiency targets or better resource-planning requirements that encourage efficiency, the geographical balance is starting to shift.
In some states, there may even be legislative pushback against policies from conservative lawmakers worried about mandates for renewables and efficiency. Prices are expected to climb over the coming decades, but the historic lows will mean that consumers have less incentive to decrease consumption. Programs that provide even more value to large customers include technical assistance and incentive programs that help customers identify, evaluate, and finance energy efficiency projects. Like a renewable energy standard, these policies establish a legally binding efficiency target for electricity or natural gas. The LBNL analysis projects the Midwest and South will account for 50 percent of spending by 2025.
Some programs also provide funding for the customer to hire a full- or part-time energy manager.



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