Building codes, tougher standards, smart grid save billions
Improvements in energy efficiency can slow the growth of electricity demand over the next two decades by at least 22%, said the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).
EPRI released a report in mid-January declaring there are wide ranges of realistic efficiency improvements that the U.S. can make that, by 2030, and would see the country using 5% to 8% less electricity than expected.
However, the energy savings would come at a price. The study said utilities would have to invest between $19 billion and $47 billion between now and 2030 to get the maximum power savings that are realistically possible.
Money that does not go for new power plants would offset some of that cost.
Most of the savings would come from new building codes, tougher appliance and lighting standards, and a phase-out of less efficient equipment to heat and cool buildings, as well as development of a “smart” electric grid that would allow utilities to fine-tune energy use, the report says.
In addition, while much of the savings would come from residential use, the biggest will come from better commercial motors and office-and-factory lighting.
Michael Howard, an EPRI vice president, said electricity use has increased on average 2.5% a year over the last 35 years and will probably increase 1.07% annually up to 2030. He said the EPRI analysis concludes the annual growth in power demand could decrease by 0.83% even if not everyone buys the most efficient appliances and equipment.
The EPRI study may, in fact, understate the potential for efficiency gains since it assumes no additional efficiency regulations and codes than are already on the books.
U.S. President Barack Obama repeatedly has said a core of his energy policy will be to improve energy efficiency including tougher appliance standards. For example, he will ask Congress to pump some of the economic stimulus funds into reducing energy use in government buildings.
The Associated Press reported Obama’s choice as energy secretary, Steven Chu, told a Senate hearing in January that “energy efficiency is the key” to curtailing people’s energy costs and also help to address climate change.
The study does not take into account the expected increase in electricity demand over the next two decades of more plug-in hybrid vehicles. If, as some experts expect, there are 8 million electric cars on the road by 2030, they will boost power demand by 2%.
See the executive summary of the EPRI report at http://www.isa.org/FileStore/Intech/WhitePaper/EPRI.pdf.
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