EPRI Analysis Finds Utility Based Energy Efficiency Programs Could Cut Energy Consumption 7-11%

April 22, 2008 by Jeff Shepard

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) released a study claiming that energy efficiency improvements in the U.S. electric power sector could reduce electric consumption by 7 to 11% more than currently projected over the next two decades if key barriers can be addressed.

The draft findings were presented by EPRI and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) during an Edison Foundation conference, which examined strategies to meet the growing demand for electricity which is expected to soar 30% by 2030, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That demand growth projection would be even higher without the implementation of existing building codes, appliance standards and market-driven consumer incentives, which will shave electricity consumption by 23%, according to the EPRI-EEI study. However, it is claimed that additional efficiency gains could be achieved only by overcoming major market, regulatory and consumer barriers, the analysis found.

"This study demonstrates the potential of energy efficiency to offset some of the projected need for new electric generation as cutting-edge technologies become available and are adopted," said Dr. Michael Howard, Senior Vice President at EPRI. "We think a 7% efficiency improvement is realistic – and gains of 11% or more are technologically feasible – depending on the degree to which various obstacles can be overcome."

Essential steps include increased consumer education; adoption and enforcement of aggressive building codes and appliance standards; creation of utility business models that promote increased efficiency within the power sector; and adoption of electricity pricing policies that more accurately reflect the cost of providing electricity to consumers � and give them the information they need to use it wisely.

Optimal electricity savings can be achieved only if the best available technologies are deployed throughout the U.S. economy, EPRI and EEI said. Much of the research involved in realizing more efficiency is being conducted by EPRI at its Living Laboratory for Energy Efficiency in Knoxville, Tennessee.

EPRI’s programs and collaborations that evaluate cutting-edge technologies have identified numerous opportunities to markedly improve energy efficiency through use of "smart" and highly efficient electrical devices. For example, direct energy feedback devices, such as household thermostats that respond automatically to electricity price or demand signals, can cut energy use and save customers money.

At the same time, consumers’ ever-increasing appetite for electricity-hungry devices – even with continuing efficiency improvements – will keep electricity demand on a steady upward trajectory. A 42-inch plasma television consumes two and a half times more energy (250W) than a standard 27-inch TV (100W).And while many large household appliances have become more efficient over the years, many smaller devices have not. Two 30W set-top television boxes, for example, may consume as much electricity as a large refrigerator.