PORTLAND, Ore., May 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Today the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) announced that 13 regional energy organizations have pledged to renew their investment in NEEA with $192 million for the 2010-2014 period. NEEA's funding backs an aggressive plan to save the region 200 average megawatts (aMW) of power by 2014 at a projected cost of under 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour, enough energy to power 138,000 homes for a year, and at a cost less than any other type of generation source. NEEA's funding organizations are based in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington and represent about 130 regional public utilities on behalf of Northwest energy consumers.
"Investments in energy efficiency are helping to lay the groundwork for a new energy future for America," said U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Cathy Zoi. "By continuing to promote energy-efficient technologies, the Northwest is helping to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, while creating green jobs and driving our economy forward."
Working through NEEA, the region has already saved a substantial amount of energy. From 1997 through 2008, the Northwest achieved 264 aMW of energy savings through its regional efforts, which is enough energy to power the cities of Spokane and Tacoma, Washington or 182,000 homes each year. These energy savings were achieved at a cost of about two cents per kilowatt-hour. Including the investment in NEEA, the region as a whole is expected to spend roughly $2 billion on new energy efficiency programs by 2014.
One wonders just how much electric power can be saved before the cost of additional demand reduction equals the marginal cost of more electric power generation. Demand reduction at lower cost effectively raises living standards.
That electric power saved at a cost of 3.5 cents per kwh compares with a US average national residental electric power cost of about 11 cents per kwh. Cutting electric power usage costs much less than generating more electric power.
You too can cost effectively lower your electric power demand. For example, choose from a list of the most efficient US EPA Energy Star rated refrigerators or other types of highly efficient appliances.
The rules, which took more than a year to develop, are designed to shave $8.1 billion off Californians' electricity bills over a 10-year-period. That works out to $30 per set per year, according to commission officials.
It will also help California utilities head off the need to build more power plants just so residents can watch "American Idol" and other shows. TVs already account for 10% of residential energy use in California, driven largely by surging demand for large-screen TVs.
The first line of this paragraph is a hoot.
Yet California's energy needs are so vast, it still must import about 30% of its electricity from out of state. Continued conservation, officials say, is critical to ensure California has enough electricity to keep its economy growing and healthy.
A geographically huge state can't generate all the electricity it uses? Why? The problem is not the vastness of California's needs. Let me reword: California's NIMBY regulations are so vast that the state prevents sufficient electricity generating capacity from being built within the state's borders. While I'm at it: California's regulatory restrictions increase transmission line losses by requiring generation capacity to be built far from its population centers and it increases odds of power outages due to failures in long distance transmission lines.
My guess is that would-be constructors of new electric power generating capacity also believe that once a generating plant is built in Nevada or Arizona it is at less future political risk from new regulatory and legislative decisions.
Plasma TVs are most threatened by this regulation. LCD TVs are substantially more energy efficient, by some reports by as much as a factor of 2 to 4. But even without regulatory pressures the plasma TV makers already have incentives to increase TV efficiency:
Plasma manufacturers are trying to avoid being edged out of the HDTV market by LCD, so putting any money into research in this area will likely bring a huge payoff for them. For one, better luminous efficiency will mean fewer parts needed to put the TV together. The power supply in a 42-inch 720p plasma TV accounts for 9 percent of the manufacturing cost, for example. It's only 3 percent of the cost of a comparable LCD TV. By increasing a plasma's efficiency to 5 lumens per watt, the cost of producing the TV could become equivalent to LCD, Young argues, which will allow plasma manufacturers to simply focus on improving the panel technology. And every dollar counts in the TV market, where margins are razor thin.
While plasma TVs have picture quality advantages LCDs weigh less, take up less space, make less noise, last longer, and use less energy. I expect the advantages to narrow but not disappear.
If you are curious about energy efficiency ratings of TVs you can go to the US government's Energy Star TV rating web page and do searches on types of TVs. Not all plasma TVs are so bad. For example, here are Energy Star ratings for plasma TVs bigger than 36 inches. They estimate that a Panasonic TC-P42U1 42" Viera U1 Series Plasma "1080p HDTV will use 261 kwh per year. At 11 cents per kwh (and you may pay more or less depending where you live) that's less than $30 per year. Not much. But a Sharp 40 inch LCD TV uses only 140 kwh per year.