Energy Efficiency: The Cleanest, Cheapest Energy Resource

SELC is pursuing an aggressive strategy to spur utilities to invest in energy efficiency programs, which curb power consumption and demand.

Hide

Photo © EE Image Database

Latest News

Fact-checking DOE Secretary Rick Perry’s renewable energy inquiry More »

At the request of Secretary Rick Perry, the Department of Energy is slated to release an analysis this month looking at the reliability of the nation’s electricity grid. But, rather than acknowledging changing market forces, the role of clean energy in strengthening the grid, and the growth of the clean energy economy, Perry’s inquiry appears to be framed to lay the groundwork for attacks on clean energy to appease fossil fuel special interests.

Last week, SELC sent a letter, along with 20 groups throughout the South, urging Perry to do a full and fair review of renewable energy and grid reliability. SELC also created a fact sheet to provide a real sense of the robust clean energy economy in the South.

As outlined in a memo directing his Chief of Staff Brian McCormack to conduct the 60-day inquiry, Perry’s premise is that regulatory burdens on “baseload” power resources (coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric), and federal subsidies for renewables are creating problems for maintaining the reliability of the grid.

This stands in stark contrast to Perry’s view of renewable energy as a smart investment during his tenure as governor of Texas. Under his leadership, Texas led the way in renewable energy, producing more wind energy than the next three states combined, and Georgetown, Texas has recently become one of the first cities in the country to be entirely powered by solar and wind energy – a decision that has brought the city millions of dollars in new investments.

Another concern regarding the objectivity of the analysis: The DOE staffers charged with conducting it have a track record of bias against clean energy.

DOE Chief of Staff McCormack most recently worked at Edison Electric Institute (EEI), where he coordinated efforts to impose fees and roll back compensation for rooftop solar owners. Travis Fisher, a political appointee at DOE, previously worked for the Koch Brothers-funded Institute for Energy Research and American Energy Alliance where he made comments lamenting tax credits for wind and solar. Daniel Simmons, tapped to lead DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has falsely claimed that higher levels of wind and solar power raise domestic prices.

In fact:

  • RENEWABLES STRENGTHEN OUR ECONOMY: Across the Southeast, solar jobs are growing – with over 20,000 jobs in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Alabama.
  • RENEWABLES STRENGTHEN NATIONAL SECURITY: The U.S. military plans for 25 percent of the military’s energy production to come from renewables by 2025 and bases in Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina have all gone solar due to energy independence and security concerns.
  • RENEWABLE ENERGY HAS BIPARTISAN SUPPORT: Republican state officials have long championed their states’ clean energy investments, including former South Carolina governor and current United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s praise of a landmark 2015 bill that opened up South Carolina to more solar power.
  • RESEARCH SHOWS THE U.S. HAS MUCH MORE CAPACITY FOR RENEWABLES: A two-year analysis from the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) found renewable energy can reliably meet up to 80 percent of U.S. electric demand in 2050 with modest improvements to the flexibility of the grid.

View All Updates »

Energy efficiency is the cleanest, cheapest energy resource. Efficiency helps lower 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 our region, 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 roll out its “Save-A-Watt” program, the first large-scale portfolio of energy efficiency programs in the region, and emerge as the energy efficiency leader in the Southeast.  We are making headway with other utilities and in other states, as well. In Tennessee, our advocacy helped prod the Tennessee Valley Authority to take a big step forward by treating energy efficiency as a resource that competes directly with natural gas and coal. Because TVA is not regulated by a state utility commission, we are engaging directly with TVA, local power companies and end-use customers to advocate for smart program design, rate structures and other policies that will reduce customers’ electric bills, prevent unwise capital investments, and cut carbon pollution.  In Georgia, we have secured commitments from the state’s largest utility, Georgia Power Company, to develop 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 Virginia, we will continue to promote the benefits of efficiency in our work before state regulators and with Dominion Power 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 on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, bringing our regional perspective to advocacy for greater reliance on low-cost energy efficiency as a keystone in state strategies to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.