Conservation Colorado: Will State Backtrack on Energy Efficiency?

Proposal would lower goals by almost 30%

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At stake is more than $600 million in projected savings from lower utility bills for businesses and homes as well as avoided air pollution, water consumption and Colorado jobs in the multifaceted energy efficiency sector.

Denver, CO (PRWEB) April 22, 2014

Colorado’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) will hear arguments on Earth Day, April 22, on whether to roll back the state’s energy efficiency goals or stay the course and build on Colorado’s successes set by their PUC predecessors.

At stake is more than $600 million in projected savings from lower utility bills for businesses and homes as well as avoided air pollution, water consumption and Colorado jobs in the multifaceted energy efficiency sector.

Colorado law requires that investor-owned utilities save energy through efficiency programs for their customers. The PUC set specific annual goals and awarded bonuses to utilities for meeting and surpassing the goals for each year 2009 through 2020.

From 2009-2013 in Colorado, utilities have deployed robust programs that offer rebates for high efficiency lights, appliances, furnaces and air conditioners, home and business energy upgrades. Consumers have purchased 12 million compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) and businesses completed 24,000 energy efficiency upgrades.

The massive switch from old incandescent light bulbs to efficient CFL’s has contributed a significant portion of the energy savings, enough to equal the output of a medium sized power plant.

As a result of these efficiency programs, customers of the state’s largest regulated utility, Xcel Energy, will save $950 million on their utility bills. The reduction in electricity demand kept 1.1 million tons of carbon and smog-creating pollution from dirtying Colorado air and saved 650 million gallons of water as of 2013. It is estimated nearly 1,000 new energy efficiency related jobs were created as a result of the utility’s efforts. In addition, Xcel Energy earned $68 million in bonuses for beating the goals during 2009-2012.

Now, there is a proposal to lower Xcel’s goals by 28% from 2015-2020 for programs offered its 1.4 million customers in Colorado. Some say the low-hanging fruit of energy savings—primarily through lighting retrofits—has been picked. But many other investment opportunities remain and continued goals will encourage new energy saving technologies.

The PUC requires energy efficiency programs to be cost-effective. If the programs are not, then typically the utility can’t offer them (energy efficiency programs to upgrade low-income housing are an exception). So far, according to Xcel Energy’s annual reports, the programs will return customer savings that are nearly three times their cost—even without fully quantifying many of the environmental and other non-energy benefits.

A report issued April 8, 2014, by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) said most states are increasing, not decreasing, their investments in energy efficiency. If these states continue to meet their energy savings targets, the combined savings from those states will equal 6.2% of overall U.S. electricity sales by 2020, the report said.

Energy efficiency advocates point out that lowering goals on successful programs will mean fewer customers can take advantage of the benefits of energy efficiency. Worse, lower goals also could hurt consumers by lowering rebates that make ENERGY STAR appliances, home and business efficiency audits and upgrades more affordable.


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