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Howard Learner Headshot

Game-changing Quiet Revolution in Midwest Energy Efficiency

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In the overheated Capitol Hill politics, even energy efficiency is controversial. The bipartisan team of Senators Shaheen and Portman unfortunately face considerable hurdles in their common sense efforts to advance focused energy efficiency legislation.

By contrast, in the Midwest Heartland, there is a quiet revolution as game changing energy efficiency is moving forward. Midwest electricity demand is declining on a weather-normalized basis. This is attributable to:

1. Energy efficiency programs that utilities, environmental organizations and consumer groups are working together to design and effectively implement in several Midwest states. $2.5-$3 billion of energy efficiency program investments over the past several years are, indeed, moving the needle.

2. Federal appliance efficiency standards that are having an impact as people and business purchase new products and equipment. The much more energy efficient new models are replacing less efficient appliances and other equipment.

3. The technological improvements in lighting, air conditioners, refrigerators and chillers, a wide range of appliances, furnaces, computers, big-screen TVs and pumps and motors that people are installing in their homes and businesses. They're all more energy efficient which saves business and residential consumers money on their utility bills while also reducing pollution.

All of this is occurring at a time of overall Midwest regional economic growth.

Electricity use and demand is truly disconnected from GNP growth. Our economy is growing, but more efficiently. This is a very big deal.

Here are some key numbers on Midwest electricity demand reduction:

1. After surveying utilities, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) found that utilities in the Midwest portion of MISO are expecting a negative 0.75 percent load growth through 2016. That translates into an overall regional 2.5 percent reduction in electricity demand over the next three years. This data is based on individual utilities' statements of their projected electricity demand, which sometimes tend to be overstated.

Moreover, this is in stark contrast to the positive 0.8 percent business-as-usual load growth that MISO has been using for planning purposes. That's a 1.55 percent difference for each of the next three years.

2. Xcel Energy in Minnesota had negative 0.8 percent demand, on a weather-adjusted basis, in 2013.

3. Commonwealth Edison is now forecasting negative 0.2 percent demand in 2014 due in part to the impact of "on-going energy efficiency programs." ComEd is also forecasting positive 2.3 percent Chicago GMP while it is expecting the -0.2 percent annual electricity demand reduction. In other words, economic growth is occurring without a corresponding increase in electricity demand. De-linkage.

Policy advances and technology innovation are working together to advance energy efficiency. Just as federal clean car standards and technological innovations are driving the old clunkers off our highways to be replaced by more fuel efficient cars, much more efficient lighting and appliances are now in our homes and businesses. Good energy efficiency policies are a win-win-win for business growth, consumer savings and environmental pollution reduction.

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