Bonneville Power Administration makes compelling ‘Case for Conservation’


Statement from NW Energy Coalition executive director Sara Patton

On June 28, the Bonneville Power Administration released a significant study showing that its energy efficiency investments have saved the agency at least $750 million and likely more than $1.3 billion over the last 10 years. BPA savings translate into savings for Northwest public utilities – and thus for the families and business they serve.

BPA’s “Case for Conservation” report shows that the agency’s support for utilities’ energy efficiency programs and for large regional projects achieved more than 71 million megawatt-hours of savings between 2001 and 2011 for a far lower cost than buying that amount of power on the market.

This is great news for utilities, energy consumers, the climate and our environment. And it confirms what clean and affordable energy advocates, the region’s official power planning agency and the framers of the Northwest Power and Conservation Act have been saying for years: energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest and quickest means of meeting new power needs. In fact BPA is quite explicit about making conservative assumptions in its new study, so the $750 million to $1.36 billion benefit conclusion is conservatively low.

The “Case for Conservation” compares energy efficiency program costs (including agency administrative costs) with what BPA would have spent to buy the amount of power saved on the Mid-Columbia spot market. It uses the program costs for 2001-2011 and the financial savings from 2001-2022 to account for the long-lived benefits of the installed energy efficiency measures.

The analysis is openly conservative. It finds that energy efficiency helps insulate utilities from volatile energy markets, but assigns no value (as most long-range resource plans do) on this risk reduction. It includes no estimates of carbon-reduction or other environmental benefits, nor does it consider the potentially greater costs and risks of building new generating plants rather than buying on the volatile market. The analysis is based purely on avoided market purchases.

Even so, its findings are impressive. Depending on highly variable future spot-market energy prices and different costs for different energy efficiency measures, 10-year cost savings range from a low of $750 million to a high of $1.36 million.

The savings total would grow if benefits from reduced risk, carbon emissions and new generation needs were factored in. In addition, had the study counted the thousands of jobs involved in energy efficiency manufacturing and installation, along with the thousands more created from consumers spending their savings, its benefits total would be higher still.

But these baseline results – encompassing a period that included the deepest economic downturn in BPA’s history — prove the cost-effectiveness of energy efficiency investments and inspire continued and intensified energy-savings efforts.

Efficiency is the Northwest’s core energy value. The Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Act establishes energy efficiency as our first resource priority. Energy efficiency is the power sector’s best and cheapest weapon for cutting climate pollution. The most recent regional plan from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council calls for meeting 85% of new power needs with energy efficiency. And Bonneville, which has pledged to meet public power’s share of the Council goal, is working admirably with its public utility customers to reduce their power costs and their consumers’ bills.

We applaud BPA for completing this study and look forward to working with the agency, utilities and all energy users to realize all the cost-effective energy efficiency we can … as fast as we can.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING:“Reducing utility costs and keeping bills low is important to Emerald PUD. This new BPA study shows that investing in conservation really pays off for our consumers.”Emerald People’s Utility District board director Katherine Schacht_______________“Investments in energy efficiency resources are supporting a vibrant, growing industry that is bringing good jobs in engineering and design, skilled trades and facilities management to communities throughout the Northwest. In addition to producing an inexpensive resource for utilities, this work is improving the comfort, productivity, and competitiveness of Northwest homes, businesses, and industry. Energy efficiency makes the Northwest a better place to live and to work.”

Northwest Energy Efficiency Council executive director Stan Price