Energy Efficiency: The New Energy Superhero of the Southeast

Photo from Orca Power & Light Cooperative

SACE recently finished its review of 2011 energy efficiency impacts for the major utilities in Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas and Tennessee. We are proud to announce that all major utilities are now offering energy efficiency programs, and have shown marked improvements in the past five years. In fact, from 2009-2011, efficiency savings have almost tripled! In 2011 alone, consumers have saved about 1,800 GWh of electricity in the Southeast.

At this rate, consumers are reducing demand for a typical coal power plant in the Southeast about every 16 months. While this does not put any of our utilities in the national efficiency leader category, it is a marked improvement, and more importantly, regulatory filings indicate that the utilities plan to continue to save even more energy.

Just like our little energy superhero in the above picture, we need our utilities to take a stand against energy waste. And what better way is there to accomplish this than to implement super energy efficiency programs? Among other characteristics, we look for utility energy efficiency programs that have a reasonable savings goal and are effectively implemented.

  • In the Southeast, we look for programs to be reaching towards (or even beyond) energy savings representing 1% of retail sales per year. We don’t know what the upper limit may be, but all the evidence suggests that 1% per year is a level that should be achievable and sustainable.
  • Effective implementation is a tougher quality to measure. Since, by definition, energy efficiency investments must be cheaper than building and operating power plants, they are always cost-effective. But some programs are clearly run smarter and thriftier than others.

So do we have any utilities with “super” energy efforts in our region? We took a closer look and analyzed utility energy efficiency savings and costs in 2011 to find out. The results might surprise you: the Southeast may yet have a few potential superheroes of its own!

Most Utilities in the Southeast are a Third of the Way to 1%

The chart below lists the utilities we work with from the highest to lowest annual savings as a percentage of sales from left to right. Most utilities in the Southeast are in the 0.2 -0.3% range; while this is relatively low on a national scale, for utilities in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina it’s a tenfold improvement over 2006 when none of those state’s utilities reported more than 0.02% savings.

Southeastern Utilities Energy Efficiency Program Impacts, 2011

In just two years since 2009, overall savings have nearly tripled across the region. TVA has doubled its energy efficiency savings from 0.13% to 0.27% in two years, and utilities in the Carolinas went from 0.05% to almost 0.50%!

Duke Energy Remains the Leader of Efficiency in the Southeast

As shown in the chart above, Duke Energy saved about 0.70% of its sales with energy efficiency in 2011. This is significantly more than any of the other utilities in the Southeast. We congratulate Duke for its successful implementation of energy efficiency programs and continued growth from 2009 to 2011. 

We reported last year on Duke Energy and Progress Energy‘s first year of program implementation in the Carolinas, and showed that both utilities achieved greater savings at less $/kWh than planned. As with last year, Duke Energy far exceeded its energy efficiency goal.

Duke Energy Planned and Actual Energy Efficiency Impact, 2010-2011

Also similar to last year, much of the savings from Duke Energy’s program came from lighting programs. Moving forward, Duke Energy is working on diversifying its programs to achieve more non-lighting savings as federal lighting standards begin taking effect. It is also worth noting that in this blog, we are tracking the recently-merged Duke Energy’s three Southeastern utilities separately: Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC), Progress Energy Carolinas (PEC) and Progress Energy Florida (PEF).

Florida Utilities Have Much Higher Costs than Their Peers

The Florida utilities that are required to invest in energy efficiency have much higher costs than their peers in the Southeast, with the exception of JEA. The chart below shows a simplified utility energy efficiency levelized program cost, listed from lowest to highest cost from left to right. Duke Energy and JEA should be congratulated again for achieving such high savings at such low cost.

Southeastern Utilities Simplified Levelized Cost of Energy, 2011

However, energy efficiency programs at the Florida utilities besides JEA (Tampa ElectricProgress Energy Florida, Gulf Power, and Florida Power & Light) are more expensive than those of their peers. In FPL’s case, its programs are more than 2 times more expensive than SCE&G’s programs, although they are achieving comparable savings. It is worth noting that this calculation of program cost per kWh does not include the cost of solar PV programs implemented in Florida under the FEECA statute.

Many Southeastern Utilities are Continuing to Grow Energy Efficiency

In addition to tracking the impacts and costs of energy efficiency programs in the Southeast, we are also tracking utility plans. These plans can be found (in different forms) in both the utilities’ energy efficiency program plans (such as a commission proceeding to approve or modify a program), and in the utility’s integrated resource plan. A utility’s energy efficiency program plan can differ from its resource plan, either due to lack of coordination internally or because the plans serve different purposes.

Over the next several years, many of these utilities are expecting to grow their energy efficiency programs. We will be writing in detail about the plans for power plants and energy efficiency across the Southeast in the near future, but here’s a preview: The biggest potential gains are at regional utility giant TVA, which plans to ramp up its programs to double its current efforts over the next few years.

We would like to again congratulate Duke Energy for being the top performer on energy efficiency in both savings and low cost in the Southeast. We also appreciate the efforts that all of these utilities in the Southeast have been making over the past five years to develop and implement energy efficiency programs to benefit consumers by lowering electricity bills. For more information on our 2011 energy efficiency analysis, see our fact sheet and sources here.

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