Utility Efficiency Efforts Ranked

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.

PG&E, smart meter, efficiency investment

image via PG&E

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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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

    • SMART METERS ARE ONLY GOOD FOR UTILITY COMPANY EXECUTIVESnnConcepts and theory sounds great, but upon closer inspection:nnA. Utility bills are increasing where smart meters are installed, not decreasing. nnB. Customer information from smart meters is NOT formatted for customers and does NOT change customer behavior towards conservation.nnC. Increased utility rates may decrease energy usage, but that can be done with inexpensive time-of-use meters, NOT requiring expensive smart meters.nnD. The cost – benefit of smart meters is horrendous and is being promoted to profit the utility companies and their suppliers, not customers or our society or our environment.nu00a0nE. The Smart Grid does NOT use or require a smart meter on each home.u00a0 The necessary smart information can be gathered much more efficiently and timely and inexpensively at energy distribution points.u00a0 (The smart grid does not care how much power any one home uses.)nu00a0nF. The vast amount of unnecessary & nearly useless information to be handled and stored may actually end up raising energy usage.nnG. This massive Billions-of-dollars smart meter program will leave NO funds for programs that would truly bring energy saving solutions and the public will not be receptive to real solutions after being burned by these Smart meters.u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0 u00a0nnMUST-SEE 4-minute youtube video on Smart meters:nhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8JNFr_j6kdI