Energy Efficiency as a Preferred Resource: Evidence from Utility Resource Plans in the Western United States and Canada
This article examines the future role of energy efficiency as a resource in the Western US and Canada, as envisioned in the most recent resource plans issued by 16 utilities, representing about 60% of the region's load. Utility and third-party-administered energy-efficiency programs proposed by 15 utilities over a 10-year horizon would save almost 19,000 GWh annually, about 5.2% of forecast load. There are clear regional trends in the aggressiveness of proposed energy savings. California's investor-owned utilities (IOUs) had the most aggressive savings targets, followed by IOUs in the Pacific Northwest, and the lowest savings were proposed by utilities in Inland West states and by two public utilities on the West Coast. The adoption of multiple, aggressive policies targeting energy efficiency and climate change appears to produce sizeable energy-efficiency commitments. Certain specific policies, such as mandated energy savings goals for California's IOUs and energy-efficiency provisions in Nevada's Renewable Portfolio Standard, had a direct impact on the level of energy savings included in the resource plans. Other policies, such as revenue decoupling and shareholder incentives and voluntary or legislatively mandated greenhouse gas emission reduction policies, may have also impacted utilities' energy-efficiency commitments, though the effects of these policies are not easily measured. Despite progress among the utilities in our sample, more aggressive energy-efficiency strategies that include high-efficiency standards for additional appliances and equipment, tighter building codes for new construction and renovation, as well as more comprehensive ratepayer-funded energy-efficiency programs are likely to be necessary to achieve a region-wide goal of meeting 20% of electricity demand with efficiency in 2020.