Monday, October 15, 2012

Energy Efficiency in the US is Going Up

Many look at the US and gas guzzling cars and wonder about energy use.  It is not all doom amd gloom, with energy efficiency seemingly a positive issue, due to significant improvements over the past few years, and more coming it seems.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy talked about this unique positioning last week when it released its annual state ranking for energy efficiency. True, the top states are blue: Massachusetts, California, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. But look at the states moving up the line most quickly.
“These findings show that energy efficiency is being embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike at the state level,” said Steven Nadel, ACEEE executive director. “That nonpartisan status is crucial because too many conversations about U.S. energy policy begin with the false premise that the only way to safeguard our reliable energy future is to expand our supply. While some supply investments will be needed, the truth is that step one should always be energy efficiency, our cheapest, cleanest, and fastest energy resource.”
The use of combined heat and power systems are also increasing.  This is of interst to Australia as the BluGen system, which uses a gas powered fuel cell and is ultra efficient based on European testing, was developed here and is trying to break into significant domestic markets around the world.  There is some success in Europe already.

“The issues related to CHP on both political tickets are the same when you look at energy independence, clean energy, energy security – all the things that CHP brings to the energy debate. So regardless of how the election turns out, we should continue to see a bright future for CHP,” said Joe Allen, USCHPA chairman and Solar Turbines director of government affairs.  This is now of more interest in the US given moderately abundant national gas supplies, and much lower prices, and a widespread need for many months for heating.
Perhaps energy efficiency escapes partisan titles because it is technology neutral – we can save any kind of energy. Massachusetts is number one for the second year in ACEEE’s ranking largely because of its Green Communities Act, legislation enacted in 2008 that boosted renewable energy and sustainable practices. In contrast, Oklahoma is rising quickly in the ranking, partly because of its natural gas efficiency programs. Oklahoma also significantly increased its electric energy efficiency budget and upped its energy savings, as did Montana and South Carolina.

Other policies that are neither green nor blue also boosted efficiency in states. For example, 24 states now have portfolio standards, targets to achieve a certain amount of energy savings by a prescribed date. Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont have the most aggressive portfolio standards, according to ACEEE. (On the national level, various pieces of legislation propose national efficiency portfolio standards, but Congress has taken no action on them.)
While the nation may face a stalemate on many issues, it does not on energy efficiency. The resource is growing rapidly. Utility energy efficiency budgets were $7 billion in 2011, a 27% increase over the previous year. Meanwhile, energy savings increased 40% from customer-funded efficiency programs to 18 million MWh, roughly equivalent to the electricity Wyoming uses each year, according to ACEEE.

Massachusetts’ held the top position for the second year because many parties sat at the table and worked together, according Jeremy McDiarmid, Massachusetts director for Environment Northeast, an organization that has played a key role helping the state develop energy efficiency policies.
Such cooperation is hard to find on the national energy scene. Still, energy efficiency, at least, appears to be welcome at almost any table, when and if, the parties finally gather.

No comments: