Energy Efficiency: The Cleanest, Cheapest Energy Resource
Energy efficiency is the cleanest, cheapest energy resource. Efficiency helps defer or avoid the need for expensive new power plants, lowers customer bills, reduces emissions of carbon and other air pollutants, and creates jobs. Yet despite these proven benefits, the energy efficiency efforts of electric utilities in the Southeast lag behind those of utilities in other regions.
To help bring the benefits of energy efficiency to all Southerners, SELC is pursuing an aggressive strategy to spur utilities to save more energy through efficiency programs, such as incentives to upgrade lighting, heating and cooling systems so that customers can meet their power needs with less electricity. Our strategy to help the Southeast transition to a cleaner energy future includes promoting energy efficiency for the many benefits it offers, making the business case for efficiency to utilities and their regulators, and working with utilities to create financial models that remove disincentives and provide incentives that encourage customers to save energy.
Our work in the Carolinas has helped push the nation’s largest utility, Duke Energy, to emerge as the energy efficiency leader in the Southeast, with 2017 energy savings equivalent to more than one percent of 2016 sales. Duke’s efficiency programs are having a real impact: Over a four-year period beginning in 2014, Duke Energy Carolinas’ efficiency programs delivered enough peak demand savings to eliminate the need for more than four average-sized gas “peaker” power plants. We are making headway with other utilities and in other states, as well.
In Virginia, SELC helped draft and secure inclusion in recent legislation of utility commitments to invest over $1 billion in energy efficiency over 10 years and a requirement for utilities to engage in an independently administered stakeholder process to design new efficiency programs. In Georgia, our advocacy has spurred the state’s largest utility, Georgia Power Company, to roll out new and better programs to serve low-income customers, including those residing in multi-family housing. This will bring energy saving benefits to historically underserved communities for whom energy costs can be a significant burden.
But there is still much work to be done.
In South Carolina, South Carolina Electric & Gas Company has abandoned its V.C. Summer nuclear power plant and is attempting to pass along the cost of the failed $9 billion project to its customers. In the wake of this debacle, SELC and our partners are advocating in both the Public Service Commission and the state legislature for energy efficiency as a way to help lower customer bills.
In Virginia, we will continue to promote the benefits of efficiency in our work before state regulators and with Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power. In Georgia, we will continue to play a prominent role in the Public Service Commission’s Demand Side Management Working Group to push Georgia Power toward higher levels of annual energy savings. And in Alabama, where progress on efficiency has been hampered by a lack of formal proceedings, we will continue to look for ways to make the case for sensible energy efficiency measures that help customers save money.
Across the region, we are engaging with electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, which provide power for up to half the customers in some of our states and serve many low- and moderate-income households. To bring the benefits of energy efficiency to these southerners, SELC is coordinating with its partners to advocate for on-bill financing programs and other measures that allow customers to avoid the up-front cost of major efficiency upgrades, such as new heating and cooling equipment. SELC is also weighing in at the national level, fighting the Trump administration’s efforts to gut the Clean Power Plan, which would allow low-cost energy efficiency as a key tool in state strategies to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.
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