According to the 2020 Utility Energy Efficiency Scorecard released yesterday, the 52 largest U.S. electric utilities have dramatically increased their overall energy savings as they adopt innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Utilities leading the way are National Grid Massachusetts and Eversource Massachusetts, which tied for first place for the second time, followed by San Diego Gas & Electric (#3), Commonwealth Edison in Illinois (#4), Baltimore Gas and Electric (#5), and Pacific Gas & Electric (also #5).
This year’s scorecard, released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), comes at a time of rapid transformation in the utility sector and highlights notable changes since the Council’s first such ranking in 2017. It finds that, as a group, the utilities boosted their annual energy savings by 20% since 2015, saving almost 20 TWh of electricity in 2018 from programs administered that year— enough to power 1.8 million homes. Notably, utilities are increasing efficiency investments in low-income communities and speeding the adoption of electric vehicles.
“The most-improved utilities, Consumers Energy in Michigan and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, are impressively stepping up their energy-saving efforts,” says Grace Relf, lead author and ACEEE senior research analyst. By offering programs to customers that help them save energy, she says, Consumers more than doubled its energy savings since 2015 and LADWP increased savings by more than half. Yet Relf says progress across utilities is uneven, leaving a lot of room for improvement.
The scorecard ranks utilities on 20 metrics based on their 2018 performance, programs, and policies, allocating 50 possible points. Notable findings:
- Eversource Massachusetts and National Grid Massachusetts, tying again for first place as they did in our previous utility rankings, each earned 92% of possible points. They offer a broad and innovative range of programs that reach many customers and target diverse end uses, including those to promote zero-net-energy buildings.
- Rounding out the top 10 are the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) (#7), DTE in Michigan (#8), Portland General Electric (#9), and Eversource CT (#10). These utilities all saved energy worth more than 1.5% of sales in 2018 — 50% above the average. They offer learning thermostat and plug load reduction programs, and they piloted new programs in 2018.
- LADWP and Consumers Energy (#11) are the most-improved utilities relative to the 2017 Scorecard. LADWP increased annual savings by more than 50% since 2015 and delivered significant savings for low-income customers. Consumers Energy more than doubled savings since 2015, responding to Michigan’s recent laws requiring increased energy efficiency targets and consideration of efficiency in resource planning.
- Utilities with the most room to grow include Duke Florida (#48), Jersey Central Power & Light (#48), Dominion Virginia (#50), Florida Power & Light (#51) and Alabama Power (#52).
- Utilities are dedicating more of their efficiency funding (on average 10%) to low-income programs. As a result, average low-income program energy savings (in MWhs) have increased by more than 60% since 2015. Thirty-one utilities offer comprehensive programs for low-income customers, such as home weatherization.
- Utilities are increasingly promoting electric vehicles (EVs). Sixteen utilities offer a financial incentive for deploying EV charging equipment, and six offer make-ready programs that allow other organizations to deploy this equipment rapidly and economically. Twenty-five utilities are using rate design to promote EV charging at off-peak times, an increase of six since 2015.
Marcy Reed, president of National Grid Massachusetts, says: “I am proud that National Grid’s energy efficiency programs have been recognized as #1 in the nation by prioritizing low-income communities, electric vehicle infrastructure, and aggressive programs for high energy use commercial and industrial customers. We are committed to supporting the Commonwealth and our customers in our shared goals of meaningful deep emissions reductions and a clean energy future.”
“We are proud to be recognized as both a ‘top ten’ and ‘most-improved’ utility,” says David Jacot, LADWP’s Director of Efficiency Solutions. “LADWP sees energy efficiency as foundational to achieving our larger objectives of decarbonizing our energy supply and our economy, while keeping customer rates as low as possible by optimizing the system’s usage and reducing the need for costly infrastructure upgrades.”
This year’s report highlights the ways in which the utility landscape has transformed since 2015, the baseline for our 2017 scorecard. New technologies are emerging; states, utilities, and other stakeholders are increasingly focused on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the important role of efficiency in supporting emissions reductions; and distributed energy resources (DERs) are continuing to come online.
Overall, the utilities offered more than 900 different efficiency programs in 2018, about 300 more than in 2015. Such programs, which can encourage energy-efficient appliances, lighting, and behaviors, deliver multiple benefits: they reduce customer bills, increased grid reliability, and facilitate greater use of renewable power such as solar and wind. Thirty-two utilities piloted new programs that involve smart thermostats, online marketplaces for energy-saving products, commercial energy efficiency financing, and integration of efficiency with other DERs such as demand response and storage.
While overall energy savings increased, this upward trend was not universal, and seven utilities saw their energy savings decrease by more than 20% since 2015. Our scorecard also found that, while there is increased focus on changing utility business models nationally, utilities are generally slow to change these models and are often reluctant to give customers access to energy usage data.
“Our results highlight the importance of strong state policies and regulatory support in utility-sector efficiency programs,” says Steven Nadel, ACEEE’s executive director. He notes that all of the top 10 utilities in this report are located in states that also rank among the top 13 in ACEEE’s 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. Policies in these states―such as energy efficiency resource standards and financial opportunities for utilities to maintain and increase revenues while delivering efficiency―are important in driving performance. As more states adopt bold clean energy policies and include a prominent role for efficiency as a low-cost electricity resource and emissions reduction strategy, we expect to see continued improvements in utility efficiency performance in those states.
The scorecard, which received no utility funding, increases the availability of utility-sector energy efficiency data to enable benchmarking and help utilities strengthen their programs. ACEEE focuses on the 52 largest electric utilities by retail sales volume, including all 51 utilities from its 2017 Scorecard, plus Tampa Electric. The Council gave all the utilities the opportunity to review the 2020 Scorecard before its publication.
Grace Relf, senior research analyst at ACEEE, speaks on the latest Scorecard in this video.
To download the 2020 Utility Energy Efficiency Scorecard, visit the ACEEE website here.
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