Engaging utility customers in energy efficiency
By Travis Mitchell, FierceEnergy
Published: August 2, 2012
Smart-grid investment has boomed over the past several years, but getting U.S. consumers engaged in energy-efficiency programs remains both a challenge and an area of great potential, according to a panel of industry experts.
Speaking on a panel hosted by the Alliance to Save Energy and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Bloomberg analyst Ted Hesser called U.S. energy-efficiency programs "woefully underfinanced." He noted that while smar- grid investment has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45 percent over the past four years, that pace is likely to slow.
Hesser joined with policymakers and industry players in highlighting both the historic shortfalls and growth potential of the U.S. energy-efficiency market. Panelists agreed that a major reason energy-efficiency programs have not taken off at the consumer level stems from the high up-front cost of purchasing "green" technologies.
"It's not that energy efficiency does not offer an attractive return on investment because it most certainly does," said Jordan Doria, Manager of Stakeholder Engagement for manufacturing company Ingersoll Rand. "It's that people do not want to wait to recoup those savings. They don't want to wait to make their money back."
One solution raised by panelists was to create a federal program that would front the money for these customer investments, or otherwise incent customers to purchase energy-efficient devices without incurring the up-front financial burden.
Another avenue is for utilities to finance and create energy-efficiency incentives for their customers. Rick Carter, Vice President of Federal Government Relations at National Grid, highlighted that his utility has invested more than $300 million in energy-efficiency programs in 2011, engaging 1.35 million customers. The opportunity for growth in this area is large, but challenging, he said.
"We need to streamline programs to fit our customers' needs," he said. "We need to aggressively work with our regulators and legislators to define the programs that are common goals."