ACEEE: Efficiency Key to “Keeping the Lights On”

We all depend on a reliable electric grid to deliver power to our homes and businesses with minimal interruptions. Energy efficiency can be a powerful force in keeping the lights on, saving utilities and their customers significant money in the process. Energy Insight participates by identifying and implementing a variety of cost-effective energy-efficiency measures that lower energy usage and demand, while reducing utility costs of commercial and industrial customers by 5% to 10%.

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For years, efforts to improve grid reliability have focused primarily on increasing supply resources to meet the growing demand for electricity. A new report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) looks at the issue from a different perspective. It examines the value of energy efficiency in ensuring a robust supply of safe, affordable electricity.

Keeping the Lights On: Energy Efficiency and Electric System Reliability builds upon an increasing awareness among energy industry leaders, regulators and operators that grid reliability requires multiple approaches, including energy efficiency. It recognizes that energy efficiency can affect electric utility system reliability in many ways, but “its principal impact is that, by reducing load, it increases the system’s capability to serve demand.” What’s more, energy efficiency accomplishes this at a far lower cost to utilities and their customers than building new generation plants or upgrading transmission and distribution systems.

“Lowering energy consumption and demand by installing cost-effective energy-efficient equipment AND best practices for operating buildings and facilities reduces strain on the electric grid,” said Energy Insight President Matt Haley. “This improves reliability.”

The report offers clear cases where energy efficiency has been used successfully to address grid supply and delivery problems. One example that illustrates this approach took place during California’s electricity crisis of 2000-2001. As market supply problems threatened the region with rolling power outages and skyrocketing electricity costs, energy efficiency and demand management were key to stabilizing the situation. Several other cases around the country where utilities have used energy efficiency to successfully defer or eliminate the need for traditional transmission and distribution system upgrades also are included in the report.

Energy Insight works with hundreds of commercial and industrial customers annually, saving more than 60,000,ooo kWh of electricity and 600,000 therms of natural gas. This is equivalent to 85,000,000 pounds of coal.

ACEEE report authors acknowledge that the utility industry is undergoing fundamental transformations and requires significant investments to modernize the grid. But they stress the need for policy makers and stakeholders to consider energy efficiency as part of the fix and include it in planning and decision making for a clean, smart, reliable grid.

“Our firsthand experience demonstrates that energy efficiency works,” Haley said. “We have been exceeding customer expectations for more than 27 years, implementing and delivering commercial and industrial energy conservation programs for utility customers.”

Read the full ACEEE Report.