In 2016 and 2017, the region achieved 404 average megawatts of electric energy efficiency savings, enough power to equal the average annual energy use of 290,000 homes, according to a report by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. This achievement exceeds the first two-year efficiency target set in the Council’s Seventh Northwest Power Plan (2016).
The achievement includes savings from efficiency programs run by regional electric utilities, the Bonneville Power Administration, Energy Trust of Oregon and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. This is the eighth consecutive year that the region met or exceeded the Council’s targets in its power plans. Much of the regionwide savings for 2016 and 2017 came from conversion to efficient LED lighting.
The survey is conducted by the Regional Technical Forum, an advisory committee to the Council established in 1999 to develop standards to verify and evaluate energy efficiency savings. The annual survey assesses energy efficiency savings and expenditures from the previous year compiled from reports submitted by utilities and energy efficiency organizations. The survey also helps the Council track progress toward energy efficiency goals in the Council’s Northwest Power Plan, which provides a least-cost plan for meeting the Northwest’s future electricity needs.
While currently on track, these initial results do raise some concern about whether the region will meet the six-year goal in the Seventh Plan of 1,400 average megawatts. There is concern because the Seventh Plan milestones increase over the next four years, but projections for 2018 and 2019 show that program budgets and savings are expected to be relatively flat. Additionally, the Bonneville Power Administration, the region’s largest electricity provider, plans to reduce its spending on energy efficiency by approximately 10 percent in 2020 and 2021 as part of its agency-wide cost-cutting efforts to maintain its financial competitiveness.
However, there is significant untapped cost-effective potential in several electricity end-uses, specifically residential and commercial heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment and residential water heating. In order to meet the Council’s 2021 regional energy efficiency goal, programs will need to capture savings from these markets.
Historical data show that energy efficiency savings tend to track well with budgets. This means if budgets decline, savings generally will, too. Based on current projections and achievements, meeting the six-year goal will require significant amounts of energy efficiency occurring outside of direct energy efficiency programs.
The utility cost of acquisition remains steady and low, energy efficiency provides significant benefits for meeting the region’s peak-power needs by reducing overall loads, and it reduces regional greenhouse gas emissions. The data in the Council’s report provide important insights to support the region’s utilities in their efforts to continue to acquire this valuable resource.