A new study finds there is huge potential in Ohio to save families and businesses money on their utility bills through energy saving programs. This study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), which examines reports from Ohio utilities as well as industry-standard programs that Ohio has yet to take into account, concludes the state has significant, cost-effective, and untapped energy efficiency potential just waiting to be utilized.
Ohio’s four major electric utilities—AEP, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy, and FirstEnergy—are seeking ways to reduce their energy consumption 22.2% by 2027. These utilities have been running wildly successful energy efficiency programs for homes and businesses since at least 2010, saving Ohioans over $1 billion on their energy bills and delivering customers a 2:1 return on their investment. ACEEE concludes Ohio’s utilities will be able to continue to meet these energy efficiency goals through cost-effective programs that provide tremendous benefits for customers.
Beyond the significant untapped savings Ohio’s utilities could be capturing, the ACEEE report finds that the state has not even scratched the surface of the benefits available to Ohioans over the long term. These include currently available and cost-effective programs like LED lighting, multi-family housing retrofits, combined heat and power projects, and low-interest financing opportunities.
The report also finds increased potential for emerging technologies—potential that Ohio has yet to capture. Technologies such as smart thermostats and advanced clothes dryers can give customers more choice on how they use energy and help save money. With the clean energy industry evolving at a rapid pace, innovation in energy efficiency has also come faster than expected, in some cases with rapidly falling prices. For example, the price of LED lighting has decreased over 85% in the last five years.
“Innovation in energy-efficient products and services creates enormous opportunities for cost-effective energy savings, and helps customers make smarter choices about how they use energy,” said Maggie Molina, utilities, state, and local policy director at ACEEE. “Thankfully for Ohio, utilities recognize some of the opportunities to capture these emerging technologies and will be able to help their customers save money over the coming years.”
Molina continued, “Our report finds even more ground can be covered at low cost in areas where Ohio could see benefits immediately, like multifamily housing and LEDs, and in technologies such as ‘smart’ thermostats that are just now emerging.”
When utilities run better and more innovative programs that target a wide range of consumers, they add to Ohio’s growing clean energy economy. For example, AEP estimated that its energy efficiency programs will create 4,000 jobs over the next few years. And that’s just one of four major utilities that run programs in the state.
Energy efficiency companies in Ohio see this potential first hand.
According to Greg Smith, President and CEO of Energy Optimizers, USA in Tipp City, Ohio, which retrofits schools and other government buildings across the state, “We’re only hitting the tip of the iceberg in Ohio with how much we can improve the efficiency of homes and businesses, along with commercial and industrial facilities. In the last few years, my business has taken off as we continue to rapidly expand our team. We’ve grown from a true start-up to a $14,000,000 a year company. We have smart people from right here in Ohio who we want to put to work immediately. It’s that simple—we just need the right ingredients and investments to make it happen.”
Unfortunately, the future of these programs is in jeopardy.
Just as energy efficiency and renewable policies were taking off following the 2008 enactment of SB 221, Ohio passed SB 310, which froze these policies at their 2014 levels and pushed back the deadline to meet the 22.2% energy efficiency target by two years. A committee was established to examine the clean energy policies and determine their fate, which remains uncertain.
“Across Ohio, residential, business, and industrial customers are saving money because of utility energy efficiency programs,” said Madeline Fleisher, staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “As technologies advance, these opportunities are growing, but achieving this potential will require strong programs that are available to all utility customers. Continuing these programs will position Ohio as a leader in the clean energy sector, providing lower customer bills, creating sustainable jobs, and cutting pollution.”
The committee is set to release a report in September and may make recommendations on the future of Ohio’s energy landscape, including whether these cost-saving programs will continue to exist.
According to Samantha Williams, energy policy advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Energy efficiency efforts in Ohio still have plenty of fruit to bear. Luckily Ohioans are still craving ways to save money by lowering their energy use, which brings all kinds of benefits like cleaner air and more jobs to the state. This report adds to the mounting evidence, and hopefully the committee will come to the same conclusion ACEEE did—that these programs are integral to low-cost power and will continue to reap benefits for Ohioans today and tomorrow.”
A link to the full ACEEE report can be found here: http://aceee.org/white-paper/ohio-potential