AESP: Efficiency facts, not fables

Earlier this month, electricity nerds professionals gathered in San Diego to discuss the state of the energy services industry. AESP (Association Of Energy Services Professionals) is focused on delivery and implementation for utilities, particularly for energy efficiency and distributed renewable resources. Several trends emerged from this year’s conference. Here’s our top five:

1. Energy efficiency marketing really is getting better.

Don’t believe me? Check out the E Source Utility Ad Awards for the industry’s best campaigns in print, video and radio from 2009 and 2010. Now look at this year’s awards.

See a difference? This year’s crop features truly creative and targeted messages for consumers to participate in utility programs. We can’t wait to see next year’s batch!

2. Utilities still have a lot to figure out about solar.

Rooftop solar panels are nothing new, but utilities’ role in getting them there and paying customers for the energy they generate is still far from certain. Cross subsidies (customers without solar effectively subsidizing customers with panels) and demand erosion continue to be an issue for utilities. This will be an area of intense debate over the next few years.

3. Large-scale deployment of electric vehicles is projected, particularly in California. Will it happen?
While electric vehicles remain at less than 1 percent penetration in California, 35 percent of customers who do purchase an EV have solar panels on their roof. That’s a staggering statistic, particularly with the explosion of solar installations in Southern California. EVs are expected to follow suit (see the projections below from E Source). But if and when are unknown.

4. Energy efficiency continues to be the least-cost resource in the long run for customers.

Research and case studies are clear on the prudence of spending ratepayer dollars on energy efficiency. But how regulatory mechanisms can align ratepayers and shareholders, while creating viable utility business models, is still contentious. Many states now allow utilities to earn profit on energy efficiency. Given its proven value to customers, regulators should continue to level the playing field for energy efficiency relative to other resources with decoupling and shareholder incentives.

5. If you feed them, they will come.

Anyone who’s ever been a graduate student can relate to this one. The conference was filled with innovative technologies such as rapid audit software and customer-tracking iPad applications. These show great promise in energy efficiency program delivery, but good implementation of energy efficiency programs isn’t rocket science. Time and again, utilities with successful programs humanize the process. Programs we liked paid great attention to detail. Simple things like serving dinner and providing child care at weatherization events were crucial for high participation rates.

It’s clear that progress has been made, but AESP reinforced that RMI can address large areas of uncertainly in the industry. For more on energy efficiency programs, see RMI’s Turbocharging Efficiency.