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>> Utility group: efficiency can curb need for new plants
April 21, 2008, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Utilities

NEW YORK, April 21 (from EPRI) – Energy efficiency improvements in the U.S. electric power sector could reduce the need for new electric generation by an additional 7 to 11 percent more than currently projected over the next two decades if key barriers can be addressed, according to a preliminary analysis of potential energy savings released today.

The draft findings were presented by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) during an Edison Foundation conference.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts 30 percent growth in electricity demand by 2030.

That demand growth projection would be even higher without the implementation of existing building codes, appliance standards and market-driven consumer incentives, which will shave electricity consumption by 23 percent, according to the EPRI-EEI study. However, additional efficiency gains could be achieved only by overcoming major market, regulatory and consumer barriers, the analysis found.

“This study demonstrates the potential of energy efficiency to offset some of the projected need for new electric generation as cutting-edge technologies become available and are adopted,” said Dr. Michael Howard, senior vice president at EPRI. “We think a 7 percent efficiency improvement is realistic – and gains of 11 percent or more are technologically feasible – depending on the degree to which various obstacles can be overcome.”

Essential steps include increased consumer education; adoption and enforcement of aggressive building codes and appliance standards; creation of utility business models that promote increased efficiency within the power sector; and adoption of electricity pricing policies that more accurately reflect the cost of providing electricity to consumers – and give them the information they need to use it wisely.

Diane Munns, executive director at EEI, said the power sector will seek the greatest efficiency gains possible, but cautioned that this will be no easy task and that utilities still must plan for substantial new generation and transmission to assure reliability.

At the same time, consumers’ ever-increasing appetite for electricity-hungry devices – even with continuing efficiency improvements – will keep electricity demand on a steady upward trajectory. A 42-inch plasma television consumes two and a half times more energy (250 watts) than a standard 27-inch TV (100 watts).And while many large household appliances have become more efficient over the years, many smaller devices have not. Two 30-watt set-top television boxes, for example, may consume as much electricity as a large refrigerator.

“While electricity rates will rise due to increasing across-the-board costs of producing electricity, energy efficiency improvements can help reduce some of these costs to consumers,” Munns said. “To maximize utility investment in efficiency programs, energy efficiency must be treated as an energy resource on par with new generation.”

Copies of the EPRI-EEI presentation are available on the Edison Foundation’s Web site, www.edisonfoundation.net

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