Building Energy Efficiency From the Ground Up

A host of new codes and standards are set to affect loads and energy efficiency acquisition in the region

Energy Efficiency is a kind of stealth resource--its impact is real, but you don't see it. One of the primary ways it's built is through programs conducted by utilities and the Energy Trust of Oregon. But another means of building energy efficiency that's even less visible is through codes and standards.

Federal standards for appliances and equipment have been in place since the mid-1970s, but in the last few years, a host of new standards have come into play that are likely to dampen long-term load growth and will achieve the energy efficiency that would have otherwise been captured through programs. Going forward, programs will need to focus on efficiency opportunities not affected by federal standards.

The Council estimates that the cumulative savings from existing federal standards were just under 1,000 average megawatts in 2012--that's almost 20 percent of the region's savings since 1978.

The Department of Energy is responsible for setting federal standards according to a schedule mandated by Congress, but has had a pattern of failing to meet it. Only after several states and interest groups sued the agency in 2005, did it finally adopt a plan to address the backlog. Under federal energy legislation enacted in 2007, the DOE must now review each product standard every six years.

As a result, federal rulemaking in the last couple of years has been brisk: 23 new or revised standards have already been finalized since the Council's Sixth Power Plan was adopted, with a dozen more scheduled to be completed within the year. The rulemaking process includes analyses to ensure that the new standards are cost-effective for consumers.

Currently, there are efficiency standards for more than 50 categories of appliances and equipment used in homes, commercial buildings, and industries. 

Standards are an incredibly effective way to achieve savings because their administrative costs are much lower than utility programs. Savings grow as more products are sold and entire markets are upgraded. Consumers reap the benefits from more energy-efficient appliances in the form of lower electricity, natural gas, and water bills.

Regional consumers saved $10 billion in their electricity bills during 1986-2010 thanks to federal standards and state codes.

The region achieves energy efficiency through four types of mechanisms: federal standards, state codes, the market transformation efforts of NEEA, and utility and Energy Trust of Oregon programs.

Federal standards are already a major contributor, and with the new standards, they'll play an even bigger role.