The Future of Utility Customer-Funded Energy Efficiency Programs in the United States: Projected Spending and Savings to 2025

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We develop projections of future spending on, and savings from, energy efficiency programs funded by electric and gas utility customers in the United States, under three scenarios through 2025. Our analysis, which updates a previous LBNL study, relies on detailed bottom-up modeling of current state energy efficiency policies, regulatory decisions, and demand-side management and utility resource plans. The three scenarios are intended to represent a range of potential outcomes under the current policy environment (i.e., without considering possible major new policy developments).

Key findings from the analysis are as follows:

  • By 2025, spending on electric and gas efficiency programs (excluding load management programs) is projected to double from 2010 levels to $9.5 billion in the medium case, compared to $15.6 billion in the high case and $6.5 billion in the low case.
  • Compliance with statewide legislative or regulatory savings or spending targets is the primary driver for the increase in electric program spending through 2025, though a significant share of the increase is also driven by utility DSM planning activity and integrated resource planning.
  • Our analysis suggests that electric efficiency program spending may approach a more even geographic distribution over time in terms of absolute dollars spent, with the Northeastern and Western states declining from over 70% of total U.S. spending in 2010 to slightly more than 50% in 2025, and the South and Midwest splitting the remainder roughly evenly.
  • Under our medium case scenario, annual incremental savings from customer-funded electric energy efficiency programs increase from 18.4 TWh in 2010 in the U.S. (which is about 0.5% of electric utility retail sales) to 28.8 TWh in 2025 (0.8% of retail sales).
  • These savings would offset the majority of load growth in the Energy Information Administration’s most recent reference case forecast of retail electricity sales through 2025, given specific assumptions about the extent to which future energy efficiency program savings are captured in that forecast.
  • The pathway that customer-funded efficiency programs ultimately take will depend on a series of key challenges and uncertainties associated both with the broader market and policy context and with the implementation and regulatory oversight of the energy efficiency programs themselves.

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A peer-reviewed version of this report was published in Energy Efficiency Journal:

Barbose, G.L., Goldman, C.A., Hoffman, I.M., Billingsley, M.A. (2013) The Future of Utility Customer-Funded Energy Efficiency Programs in the United States: Projected Spending and Savings to 2025. Energy Efficiency Journal DOI 10.1007/s12053-012-9187-1


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