About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.
EPA offices in Dallas and Kansas City, through a public/private partnership group – the Blue Skyways Collaborative, hosted a conference on Energy Savings for utilities in the central part of the United States on September 25 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The participants included investor owned utilities, local electric cooperatives, municipal and other publicly owned utilities as well as state and federal regulators. Since energy efficiency programs are scalable, the approach is as easily implemented by a small co-op with 15,000 customers as it is for large multi-state operations with millions of subscribers.
One of the principal messages of the conference was that an aggressive energy efficiency campaign for residential properties, farm & small business operations, and commercial & industrial customers should be the first option when a utility is managing an increase in power demand. Several utilities said that it was possible to harness the same amount of power created by new generation and transmission facilities through efficiency efforts for between 10 to 50% of the cost of new construction.
Glenn Cannon of the Waverly, Iowa, municipal utility outlined why this approach was a win/win solution. The environmental benefits include lower emissions including greenhouse gases than from new power plants as well as a reduction in water usage. The economic savings go to consumers, including low income and fixed income residents. Since steps like rebates for buying newer appliances and retrofitting houses with more insulation and higher quality windows and doors happen in the local area, there are positive impacts to the local economy through local purchases and the use of nearby workers. The utility benefits from a quicker response to the power demand with ongoing, long-term benefits; lessening the need for building and permitting new generation and transmission facilities, and without increasing carbon emissions.
As one of the members of the conference planning committee, I was impressed that all of the participants felt that energy efficiency programs will be an important tool to meet these future demands with certainty and benefits to all involved.