A New One-year Record: Regional electric energy efficiency improved dramatically in 2010

The efficiency of electricity use in the Pacific Northwest improved by 254 average megawatts in 2010, the equivalent power use of 153,900 homes, the Council and its partner, the Regional Technical Forum (RTF), reported today.

That’s the biggest one-year gain since regional energy-efficiency programs began more than 30 years ago. The measures implemented in 2010 saved Northwest electricity ratepayers $135 million and will produce the same amount of savings every year for the next 15-20 years, at least.

The Council and RTF, an advisory committee established in 1999 to verify and evaluate electric energy efficiency savings, calculated the savings from the results of a survey of the region’s electric utilities, the Energy Trust of Oregon, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and the Bonneville Power Administration. The 2010 savings surpassed the Council’s target for the year in its Northwest Power Plan, 200 average megawatts, by 25 percent.

See summaries and individual utility reports for 2010.

Savings occur when electricity is used more efficiently – using less power to accomplish the same tasks. This includes replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents or LED bulbs, which produce the same amount of light with less electricity, in homes, businesses, and industries, and also by improving insulation in buildings so less power is needed to heat or cool them. Replacing inefficient motors, pumps, furnaces, and other types of machinery also yields energy savings, as do changes in how much energy is used during the day, such as through programmable thermostats. The RTF has identified 90 measures that improve electric energy efficiency.

With the 2010 savings, the regional total since 1978, when energy-efficiency programs began in the Northwest, tops 4,600 average megawatts – enough power for four cities the size of Seattle.

Other highlights include:

  • The estimated cost of the 2010 efficiency improvements, $360 million, equals about 3 percent of regional electricity sales revenue for the year.
  • The average cost of the efficiency to utilities in 2010 was 1.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. The average cost of power from new generating plants that use wind or natural gas is much more expensive – between 9 cents and 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.
  • Among the various sectors of electricity use, the biggest improvements in 2010 were in commercial businesses and industries. Those two sectors together accounted for half of the savings.
  • Residential improvements accounted for 28 percent of the savings. Most of the residential improvements were in lighting.
  • Improved efficiency of products such as water heaters, furnaces, clothes washers and other equipment, which is tracked by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, accounted for 18 percent of the total.
  • The Council’s 20-year Northwest Power Plan, which is implemented by the federal Bonneville Power Administration, the largest electricity supplier in the region, calls for meeting 85 percent of the growth in demand for power through 2029 with energy efficiency. The plan, which also serves as a guide for investor-owned utilities, includes targets for efficiency improvements.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council is a compact of the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington and is directed by the Northwest Power Act of 1980 to prepare a power plan to assure the Northwest region an adequate, efficient, economical, and reliable electricity supply and a companion program to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife of the Columbia River Basin affected by hydropower dams.