Across the country, utilities are investing in smart grid technology, including smart meters, as well as customer education programs designed to help households save cash and carbon. But some utilities are investing far more in this effort than others, according to a recent report, and reaping different levels of efficiencies in return for those efforts.
This new report by Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups working with companies to address sustainability challenges, reveals that major utilities, such as National Grid subsidiaries Massachusetts Electric and Narragansett Electric, and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in California, are investing up to $4.80 per megawatt-hour of retail electricity sales in energy efficiency programs. This is nearly 50 times the amount some other utilities – such as the United Electric Coop Service in Texas, and the Southern Company subsidiaries Alabama Power and Georgia Power – are investing.
Ceres used data provided by the utilities to the Energy Information Administration to evaluate investments by 50 utility companies from across the nation. According to the report, utilities achieved energy savings ranging from less than 0.1 percent of total retail sales to nearly 2 percent of total retail sales. The 10 best-performing utilities all demonstrated energy savings equal to 1 percent or more of annual electricity sales.
What makes the difference in such investments across the country? “State policies that remove unintended disincentives for a utility to pursue energy efficiency are major drivers of utility spending,” Ceres said, particularly for regulated, investor-owned utilities. Among the 50 utilities studied, a general positive correlation was shown between the strength of state efficiency policy and the level of investment and savings (though there were exceptions to the rule).
According to Ceres, utilities joining PG&E and the National Grid subsidiaries in the top 10 for energy savings include Southern California Edison, Nevada Power, Idaho Power, Seattle City Light, Salt River Project, and Interstate Power & Light. The companies rounding out the bottom 10 were First Energy subsidiaries Metropolitan Edison and Ohio Edison, Southern Company subsidiaries Georgia Power, Alabama Power and Mississippi Power and Duke subsidiary Duke Energy Indiana, Ceres said.
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