The latest threat to utilities: ultra-efficient devices that use 50% less electricity

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Quick Take: The ACEEE is out with a report saying that miscellaneous energy loads – TVs, computers, game consoles, etc. – could be made 40-50% more energy efficient using current technology.

The ACEEE has been touting efficiency for many years, so what makes me think this particular announcement is an existential threat? First, let me remind you that more and more commercial and industrial customers are plotting ways to produce some or all of the power they need onsite. That's why I warned you in April that Walmart's power plans predict a scary future for utilities.

Now consider this: when Barack Obama announced carbon limits for power plants, he also talked about energy efficiency. It's not unrealistic to think that energy efficiency mandates could be significantly tightened in the future.

Now consider this: if the public comes to value energy efficiency thanks to efforts from ACEEE and the President, manufacturers may well begin to compete on that basis. Within a year or two, we could see a new wave of ultra-efficient consumer devices. Manufacturers have long been capable of doing more, but they haven't seen any reason to go to the effort and expense.

And consider this: the consumer devices at issue are the very ones that turn over most often. We often go decades between replacement of our HVAC systems and refrigerators. But small consumer devices? Many families buy new versions every year or two.

I think you see where this is headed. Just as C&I customers are using less electricity, consumers may be adopting devices that use less electricity.

It may take decades. Or it may be just around the corner. Either way, utilities need to decide what they will do if we end up in a world where electricity demand drops every year.- Jesse Berst

 

Power-Hungry Devices Use $70 Billion of Energy Annually

Washington, D.C. (June 26, 2013): A new analysis of devices and equipment commonly found in U.S. homes and businesses concludes that these products, with more than 2 billion in use, consume more energy each year than many large countries use to power their entire economies.

 

Household devices, such as TVs, computers, and ceiling fans, and commercial equipment, such as elevators, icemakers, and MRI machines, use 7.8 quadrillion Btus each year – which is more than the primary energy use of Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, or 200 other countries, and is more than the amount of oil that the U.S. imports from the Persian Gulf and Venezuela each year. The findings come from a new report, Miscellaneous Energy Loads in Buildings, released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

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