Conserving energy pays off after all

Remember when your mom or dad used to reprimand you for leaving the light on in your empty room? Or when they used to complain that your inconsiderate behavior was driving up the household electric bill?

Well, multiply that by a humongous factor of “n” and you will get an idea how much New England electric companies and their customers stand to save as a result of energy-efficiency efforts not much more costly than this one.

Last week, ISO New England announced that energy-
efficiency programs – coupled with other improvements – could save utilities more than $250 million by deferring the need to upgrade 10 transmission lines in the New Hampshire-
Vermont region.

“We revised the ongoing study of the Vermont/New Hampshire area of the power grid by applying the projected energy-efficiency savings, along with some new resources and recently completed equipment upgrades,” ISO New England wrote in an energy-
efficiency forecast dated Dec. 12.

“The revised analysis shows that the region can actually defer 10 transmission upgrades that earlier studies showed were needed to ensure system reliability. By deferring these upgrades, the region will save an estimated $260 million.”

ISO New England is a not-for-profit corporation established in 1997 to oversee the restructured electric power system in New England. Its primary goals are to ensure the smooth operation of the electric grid, manage wholesale electricity markets and plan for the region’s energy needs of the future.

Among other conclusions in the 38-page report:

• The six New England states continue to make major investments in energy-efficiency programs.

• These investments are having a sizeable impact on energy consumption and peak electricity demand.

• And a second forecast for the years 2013-22, which is due out in February, is expected to show similar results.

All told, the six-state region invested $1.2 billion from 2008-11 to improve energy efficiency, a figure that is expected to grow to $5.7 billion during the 2015-21 period. These include replacing incandescent lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs, the use of Energy Star-rated appliances and rebates for installing additional insulation.

The end result is that electricity use that was expected to bump up 0.9 percent each year from 2012-21 is instead anticipated to remain flat – and
that’s good news for the region’s power companies and their customers.

OK, enough with the statistics. The bottom line is this: Energy conservation works – a fact not lost on Sam Kaplan, vice president for policy and climate advocacy at the Conservation Law Foundation, who called the ISO New England report “a very big deal.”

Certainly, there are other factors behind the stable demand for electricity these days. New homes are being designed to use less electricity, for example, and the lackluster economy has played a role as well.

But there can be doubt that collective energy-
efficiency efforts – power companies, home builders, consumers, etc. – is paying off in a big way in reducing the demand for electricity in New England and all the costs associated with it.

It’s one thing to feel good about conserving energy; it’s quite another to see that quantified in millions of dollars across the region.

Oh, and don’t forget to shut off that light.