NEEA Savings

NEEA estimates its work with utilities and other entities produced nearly 37 aMW of energy savings in 2020.

Working with public- and private-sector partners, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance shaved 37 aMW off the region's load in 2020, which beats the group's 27 aMW target by more than one-third, according to its annual report.

Of the 37 aMW, 5.2 aMW came from current investments, besting expectations by 1.5 aMW. New residential construction was the biggest contributor to this, saving 1.8 aMW, mostly from more efficient codes, according to material from the June 1 meeting} of NEEA's Regional Portfolio Advisory Committee.

Gains in retail products were the second largest contributor to the savings, contributing 1.5 aMW. Its numbers were due to better-than-expected sales of more-efficient washing machines and refrigerators. Next were heat pump water heaters, with 1.4 aMW, and about 0.3 aMW from various sources rounded out the total.

The rest of the 37 aMW—32 aMW—was due to new savings from work done in previous years. Since its founding in 1997, the alliance estimates it has helped save more than 850 aMW in the Northwest. NEEA pools the efforts and resources of more than 140 utilities and EE organizations.

NEEA tracks what it calls "co-created energy savings," which come from market transformation due to collaboration with utilities and with the public and private sectors, including manufacturers. The values are verified by independent third parties with expertise in various areas of work.

Last year's 37 aMW put NEEA on course to beat its five-year target of between 115 and 152 aMW during its current business plan, which covers 2020 through 2024. The alliance now projects it could hit as much as 176 aMW by the end of that period.

NEEA estimates the 5 aMW of savings from new investments have a levelized cost of 0.61 cents/kWh, making them some of NEEA's most cost-effective gains in recent years. By comparison, the levelized cost for 2019 savings was 2.7 cents/kWh.

The group's natural gas efficiency program saved 660,000 annual therms, beating its target of 600,000 annual therms. The savings came from above-code home construction, according to the alliance.

Last year's total EE savings shaved 8.4 MW off the Northwest's peak winter demand and 8.1 MW off summer peak demand, the annual says. The peak demand savings are calculated with help from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

While NEEA could surpass its five-year goal, the region as a whole is expected to fall short of the six-year target in the Council's Seventh Power Plan, which includes EE work by other entities besides the alliance. Utilities around the Northwest are spending less on efficiency programs, according to the Council's 2020 annual EE survey (CU No. 1974 [13]).

So far, NEEA has not been affected by this downturn in conservation funding, in part because its funding is set in its five-year business plan. The alliance spent nearly $21 million on programs last year. That is the lowest amount it has spent since at least 2015, according to the most recent annual financial data available on NEEA's website.

Even if the alliance's budget is already set, the regional trend of spending less on efficiency is concerning, NEEA Executive Director Susan Stratton told Clearing Up.

The trend could catch up with NEEA in its next business plan. Preliminary work on the plan is slated to start later this year.

"We're looking at having more influence in the market" through collaboration and new funding sources, she said.

As the region grapples with growing capacity constraints, decreasing peak demand is increasingly valuable, Stratton said.

Building electrification provides new energy savings and flexibility opportunities through integration of currently separate systems.

With that in mind, NEEA is putting together a massive database of end-use load for residential and commercial buildings. The current industry-standard database is a snapshot in time put together by BPA more than 30 years ago.

The new database will be regularly updated and yield load shapes for different technologies in buildings. The data will be available to funding entities and the U.S. Department of Energy in one-minute increments. Less granular data will be publicly available.

"The database will bring all that together to understand how these systems work together and support the grid," Stratton said.

While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down data collection, Stratton said, "I hope by the end of next year, we'll start getting rich data to understand load shapes."

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Contributing Editor

Dan has covered stories from Seattle to Tbilisi; spent time with the AP, Everett Daily Herald and Christian Science Monitor; and was twice a member of a team nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He and his wife have three young children and live in Seattle.