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Energy Efficiency in the Era of Climate Change
For over 25 years, utility-funded energy efficiency programs have proven to be a widely available resource for meeting customer demand at low cost. We now have a wealth of experience demonstrating that energy efficiency programs cost a fraction of the cost of generating, transmitting and distributing electricity, and provide a variety of benefits in terms of lower bills, reduced system risk, increased system reliability, reduced environmental impacts and more. In June 2014, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued proposed regulations under the Clean Air Act (CAA) for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from existing sources in the electricity industry, it created another compelling reason for states to promote energy efficiency programs.
Efficiency programs are among the lowest-cost options for reducing carbon emissions, and can play a significant role in reducing the costs of complying with the EPA’s new plan. However, if we are to unleash the full potential of energy efficiency programs to comply with CAA 111(d), many states will need to improve their procedures for reviewing and approving utility-funded programs. Enormous reservoirs of low-cost efficiency resources remain untapped, primarily because several regulatory practices and conventions hinder the identification and development of the full potential of energy efficiency resources. In an article for Public Utilities Fortnightly, Tim Woolf, Erin Malone, and coauthors describe two of the most important of these barriers and propose strategies for addressing them.