Category: News

Energy efficiency is good for climate, consumers and industry – so why undermine it?


The EU Council of Ministers wants to slow down annual obligations on energy savings by quietly introducing a whole new range of “flexibilities” after 2020, some of which are well-hidden in an Annex of the proposed Energy Efficiency Directive, writes Benedek Jávor.

Benedek Jávor is a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament for the Greens/EFA group. He is shadow rapporteur on the recast Energy Efficiency Directive. 

Energy efficiency isn’t just good for the climate and a necessary tool to help the European Union meet the Paris Agreement. It’s also good for citizen’s health and helps them save money. Industry will also benefit from a new energy efficiency toolkit through increased competitiveness and greater investment, leading to local job creation, not least at the level of Small and Medium Enterprises.

Negotiations on the Energy Efficiency Directive are now entering a decisive stage, with talks between the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission set to run until the end of the month in order to obtain a final deal under the Bulgarian presidency before mid-June. The Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament wants to make sure everyone benefits from an ambitious approach to energy efficiency: climate, consumers and industry.

Negotiations have proved rather difficult, as the co-legislators come from very different starting points. One element is the headline target, which the European Parliament has set as binding and at least 35% by 2030. Another element is the yearly energy savings to be achieved among final consumers.

The Council wants to slow down the delivery of annual energy savings by introducing a whole new range of “flexibilities” after 2020. Some of these loopholes are well-hidden in an Annex of the Directive, far from the politicised discussion about the overall headline target.

An example of these is the Council’s proposal to enlarge the eligibility of measures to those savings stemming from the implementation of pre-2010 building codes for new buildings. This obscure provision would mean that Member States would be able to account for the construction of new buildings as

energy savings, without considering the existing obligation on this matter. This breaches the basic principle of “additionality”, which requires that efficiency measures must go beyond existing EU legislation to be counted. They should also not be retroactive, i.e. change the ongoing legislative framework.

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Exposing Indoor Air Quality: Monitoring And Energy Efficiency Are Helping


Harmful pollutants are spewing everywhere, including indoors. And while the focus is on those external emissions created by power plants, industrial facilities and automobiles, there is solid reason to turn inward: The level of volatile organic compounds — gases from solids and liquids — is 10 times greater indoors than it is outdoors.

That’s according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which adds that dirty air, generally, inside of commercial and residential buildings is two-to-five times greater than what is outside. And that is leading to health problems. In extreme cases, think of burning coal or wood for indoor cooking and heating in developing countries. The good news is that the technologies exist to monitor air quality and to improve energy efficiencies.

“As we learn to live a healthier lifestyle by eating better, we can also live a healthier lifestyle by breathing better,” Vasileios Nasis, chief executive of the Netronix Groupin Philadelphia told this writer. In doing so, he adds that “You can also contribute to energy savings.”

As for Netronix, its relatively inexpensive instruments are installed within a business or home that gather data associated with air quality, all in real time. That information is then stored in the company’s cloud software, which it monitors for a monthly fee. At the appropriate times, managers or consumers are notified to shift their usage patterns. That not only cuts down on electricity bills and pollutant levels but it can also improve the performance of existing equipment.

Green schools, for instance, say that they use a third less energy than conventionally-constructed schools, which cuts down on their utility costs and improves the air that students breathe. Ditto for hospitals, which must have sterile environments. By installing devices that can measure air quality, managers are notified of problems before they happen.

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ON THE MARKET: Elegance and energy-efficiency


Something exceptional awaits our inspection this week, as we travel to Waycroft-Woodlawn to view a 2012 property that combines classic Craftsman bungalow lines with a decidedly forward-thinking persona.

Awarded an impressive gold level in the Arlington Green Home Program for its energy-consciousness (plus walkability and accessibility to shopping and parks), the home also features a county-approved accessory dwelling on the lower level, which can work equally well as an income-producing space or as a home for in-laws or an au pair.

And as yet another bonus, there is a finished loft above the detached garage, perfect for a multitude of uses.

All this, and this custom-designed home features quality fit and finishes and welcoming and classical lines that are sure to embrace all who come to enter.

The property currently is on the market, listed at $1,499,900 by Tori McKinney of ROCK STAR Realty Group of Keller Williams Metro Center.

An expansive covered front porch provides lovely curb appeal and sets the tone for everything we will encounter and enjoy on our tour.

Stepping inside, we have unfettered views through the depth of the home, with the creative layout featuring a formal living room (with fireplace) and dining room in the middle of this level, plus an exceptional, chef’s-caliber kitchen toward the rear, with bay-window vistas and step-down access to the rear of the home and the garage behind.

A music room is at the front of the home, connected to the living room for marvelous entertaining opportunities, and a home office is at the rear. An extra bonus is the screened porch, a comfortable and inviting space that offers a ceiling fan and slate flooring.

The master bedroom retreat occupies a strategic location at the rear of the upper level, with bonuses that include a sitting nook, two walk-in closets, a dry sauna and a sumptuous master bath.

Two additional bedrooms are found on this level, each with copious closet space, and laundry facilities can be found here, as well.

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Efficiency and renewables: the dream team for a clean energy future

(Steven Nadel, Executive Director ACEEE)

With the promising trend of plunging prices for renewable energy, there may be a temptation to wonder whether energy efficiency is still cost effective. The answer is a very affirmative “yes.”  As companies, cities, and states work to keep energy costs down and meet ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, the choice should not be energy efficiency versus renewable energy. To meet these goals, we need to maximize both resources.

Energy efficiency remains generally less expensive than renewable energy, so even if renewables are plentiful, using efficiency to reduce electrical loads can still save money. While there have been a few bids of 2-3 cents per kWh for utility-scale renewable power, they include federal renewable energy subsidies that will soon end and do not reflect all of the costs of a renewable energy grid. Yes, renewable prices are coming down, but a hefty dose of efficiency is still needed to minimize both long-term costs and emissions. And incorporating efficiency also brings many other benefits including improved comfort, health, and worker productivity, reduced energy burdens, new jobs, expanded economic development, and increased grid resilience.

The cost of efficiency, home solar, and centralized renewables

Comparisons between energy efficiency and renewable energy are very different at the customer and utility levels. Work by ACEEE and LBL has found that energy efficiency typically costs an electric utility (or other program administrator) an average of about 3 cents per kWh saved over the lifetime of the efficiency measure (while this is the average, portfolio costs vary among program administrators, in the range of about 1.5-5 cents per kWh, according to the ACEEE study linked above). This amount can be compared to the cost to generate power (e.g., from fossil fuels or renewables) and bring it to a home or business. Efficiency’s cost has been surprisingly level in recent years, as shown in the figure below, even with continuing increases in savings…

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As NEEP continues to advance our mission of carbon reduction, we must stop to consider the achieved successes as well as the remaining potential for market transformation of energy efficiency. The commercial sector is a large energy user and the energy sources used today are primarily carbon-intensive sources. While efficiency measures have brought the commercial sector to a more efficient place, there is more work to be done.

This report explores why many commercial customers are not yet embracing efficiency as well as several new financing, technology, and policy changes to achieve success for commercial sector efficiency. Getting customers to “yes” and overcoming these challenges to achieve comprehensive commercial efficiency projects at scale requires a fresh perspective, new approaches, and coordination across stakeholders. This report offers strategies and solutions to achieve success in transforming the efficiency of the commercial sector.
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Virginia efficiency programs due for windfall, but will it be well spent?

(Energy News)

Energy efficiency advocates worry regulators will be too conservative when evaluating cost-effectiveness.

Virginia energy efficiency programs will get a $1 billion boost over the next decade, but how much bang for the buck the state gets for that money will hinge on how utilities and regulators decide to spend the money.

The state’s sprawling new energy law, the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018, includes a requirement that utilities invest more than $1.3 billion over the next decade in programs that help customers conserve energy.

Virginia’s utilities have historically lagged in efficiency spending. A 2017 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranked Dominion Energy’s programs 50th among the 51 largest utilities.

In 2015, Dominion Energy spend $31 million on efficiency programs — less than 0.5 percent of yearly revenue. That average for large utilities that year was 2.7 percent of revenue, according to the ACEEE report.

The new law in Virginia commits Dominion to spending $870 million on regulated efficiency programs over 10 years, or about $87 million per year. It also has to contribute $6 million annually to a state weatherization fund.

The money has potential to help thousands of customers buy smart thermostats, add insulation, or replace inefficient lighting and appliances, all of which could save money, create jobs, and delay the need to build expensive new generation or transmission infrastructure at ratepayers’ expense.

“Unfortunately, all of that potential could easily slip away,” said Chelsea Harnish, executive director of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council (VAEEC).

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Mission Attainment: Incorporating Pollution Reductions from Energy Efficiency in State Implementation Plans

Energy efficiency is a proven, low-cost way to reduce pollutants, and it can significantly help 32 states comply with US air quality regulations, according to our new report, Mission Attainment: Incorporating Pollution Reductions from Energy Efficiency in State Implementation Plans.

Despite its value, many states are not taking credit for using energy efficiency to meet federal standards. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) set limits on six criteria pollutants that are harmful to public health and welfare. States are required to develop state implementation plans (SIPs) to maintain or achieve these standards. While state air regulators can rely on energy efficiency to meet specific pollutant reductions required under NAAQS, many states are missing out on this opportunity.

To understand why more states are not taking credit for what they are already doing, we conducted a survey of state air regulators. Responses varied, but a key barrier involved the complex nature of the electric grid and the movement of pollutants through the atmosphere. The air quality benefits of reducing pollution extend throughout the country, but the exact location of air quality improvements depends on many complex factors…

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Lights Out for Residential Lighting Programs? Not Just Yet


LED light bulbs have transitioned from a fledgling technology to a major market player in recent years, with more than 450 million installednationwide as of 2016. With Americans increasingly choosing LEDs, and federal standards set to increase efficiency levels for general service lamps (the most common type of screw-in light bulbs) in January 2020, many utilities and regulators are wondering whether it is time to leave residential lighting programs behind as they plan for the coming 2019–2021 program years.

Do the upcoming standards mean residential lighting programs will no longer be cost-effective? Or can programs gain another year or two of savings by promoting efficient light bulbs, which have long been the mainstay of residential program portfolios? These questions are at the forefront of utility program planning and regulatory agendas in many states. We find that for 2019, utility programs can achieve savings in most states by continuing to run programs for the full range of LED lamps. But the picture is more complicated for 2020 and 2021, and regional differences will also matter.

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No crystal ball necessary: energy efficiency can help mitigate price volatility


Electricity bills don’t make for terribly exciting reading, but as boring as they may look, there is much more going on beneath the surface. Whereas the price most people pay for electricity remains steady from month to month, electricity costs can change dramatically from one hour to the next for the utilities that send the bills. For example, weather can cause demand to spike, raising prices as well, and suddenly the cost of the electricity is much different from the price we see on our bill. It generally falls on utilities to manage this problem, and in our new report, Estimating the Value of Energy Efficiency to Reduce Wholesale Energy Price Volatility, we estimate the costs of the risks that come with this kind of volatility and show how energy efficiency can play a useful role in mitigating those risks.

Utilities have to make plans several years at a time, setting electricity prices (with approval from regulators) to make sure they bring in enough money to cover their costs. They know that the weather is going to be bad at some point, but they don’t know when or how bad. One option is just to pay high prices when they come, hope that they set prices right, and ask permission from regulators to cover the difference if they’re wrong. Alternatively, utilities can essentially buy insurance by entering into long-term contracts for electricity at a fixed price, or by using financial markets, buying options on futures or other markets that don’t deliver actual electricity but rather pay the utility a certain amount of money if electricity prices rise above a particular level. However, the price for electricity in a long-term contract is generally higher than current expected prices, and financial instruments cost money to buy. If electricity prices don’t rise high enough, the utility loses money.

In general, utilities tend to do some of both, but regardless of what they do, volatility in electricity prices imposes costs on the system, and the only question is how much.

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Virginia’s electric utility overhaul paves way for cleaner, more efficient energy

(Washington Post Opinion)

The sweeping energy regulatory legislation in Virginia that Gov. Ralph Northam rightly stepped in to improve and recently signed deserves celebrating.

Whether you’re an environmentalist concerned about the affects of climate change, a business trying to keep operating costs low or a consumer advocate looking out for low-income customers, this is a historic win that will generate economic and environmental benefits for years to come.

Three key elements of the law make this a victory for all Virginians.

  • Utilities will finally invest significantly in energy efficiency, the very best tool to lower Virginia’s rising electricity bills and reduce air pollution, rather than continue the relentless cost increases that have made Virginia’s bills the 10th-highest in the nation. The $1 billion investment utilities will make in efficiency upgrades and programs over the next decade will yield long-term dividends for Virginia ratepayers and our environment.
  • Virginia will finally join the American clean energy revolution currently underway, as the law makes a truly transformational commitment to solar, wind and grid technology upgrades that will deliver as many clean electrons to our outlets as possible. The 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy declared to be “in the public interest” under this legislation is enough to power more than 1 million homes. This will be good for both the climate and customers, as solar and wind are often the cheapest energy you can find nowadays and some of the fastest-growing job creators in the country.
  • This law finally turns the page on an outdated regulatory model that was putting a damper on our economy and our clean air, with an endless succession of fossil fuel plants that were good for utilities but bad for Virginians’ pocketbooks. Now, regulators are free to approve investments that make better economic sense: efficiency programs such as lighting upgrades and weatherized homes and businesses that lower energy consumption and therefore bills, low-cost renewable energy and grid technology upgrades to optimize the most efficient use of our various resources to lower total costs and carbon and other pollutants.

Even though the legislation returns an upfront $200 million to customers and passes along another $125 million of annual tax savings from the federal corporate tax cut, some remain opposed to the legislation on strict consumer-protection grounds, insisting that all customer dollars over-collected by utilities under the “refund freeze” law of 2015 should be refunded rather than reinvested.

To be sure, the initial bill was unacceptable on many grounds, and even the final version is not perfect. But the bill’s remaining detractors appear to overlook two key facts: Simply refunding every possible dollar to customers would not achieve the same economic and environmental advances this law makes possible. Not only would those refunds not make a significant impact on each customer’s pocketbook but also the investments under this law will achieve far greater results than a one-time credit on bills ever could. Significantly more energy efficiency, renewables and modern grid technology mean that instead of just one lower bill as the result of a one-time credit, Virginians can now see years and even decades of lower costs and cleaner air.

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