New Life Breathed Into "Filed and Forgotten" Utility Reports: Significant Energy Efficiency Savings Available to Ohioans for Years to Come

A new study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), finds there is huge potential in Ohio to save families and businesses money on their utility bills through energy saving programs.

But this is no ordinary study. It examines "energy efficiency potential" reports from Ohio's four major utilities that were previously filed--and then forgotten--at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Rather than let them languish in obscurity, ACEEE dusted the reports off and is now bringing their prescient findings to light. Based on FirstEnergy, AEP Ohio, Duke Energy and Dayton Power & Light's review of energy efficiency opportunities in their service territories, as well as industry-standard programs that Ohio has yet to take into account, ACEEE concludes that the state has significant, cost-effective, and untapped energy efficiency potential just waiting to be utilized.

It makes you wonder--what other gems are hiding in the recesses of the Commission, just waiting to be unearthed?

Ohio Can Achieve its Energy Efficiency Standard

Ohio's energy efficiency resource standard, enacted in 2008 as part of SB 221, requires the four major investor-owned utilities to run programs that help their customers reduce energy consumption 22.2% by 2027. These include rebates for homeowners on energy efficiency refrigerators and clothes dryers, weatherization of low-income dwellings, and retrofits to commercial and industrial facilities that help Ohio businesses save money on their monthly energy bills. The programs have been wildly successful; they've shaved over $1 billion off Ohioans' energy costs and, at a 2:1 return on investment, have proven exceedingly cost-effective.

Thankfully, ACEEE's new report finds that there is more to come from these important programs--if we seize the opportunity. Ohio's utilities could continue to deliver robust savings and meet their energy efficiency goals over the next few decades through cost-effective programs that provide tremendous benefits for customers.

In fact, Ohio's electric companies were on course to help their customers cost-effectively cut overall power use by as much as 33% in the coming years before lawmakers froze the state energy efficiency requirements.

Beyond the significant untapped savings Ohio's utilities could be capturing, the ACEEE report finds that the state has not even scratched the surface of the benefits available to Ohioans over the long term. These include currently available and cost-effective programs like LED lighting, multi-family housing retrofits, combined heat and power projects, and low-interest financing opportunities.

The report also finds increased potential for emerging technologies--potential that Ohio has yet to capture. Technologies such as smart thermostats and advanced clothes dryers can give customers more choice on how they use energy and help save money. With the clean energy industry evolving at a rapid pace, innovation in energy efficiency has also come faster than expected, in some cases with rapidly falling prices. For example, the price of LED lighting has decreased over 85% in the last five years.

"Innovation in energy-efficient products and services creates enormous opportunities for cost-effective energy savings, and helps customers make smarter choices about how they use energy," said Maggie Molina, utilities, state, and local policy director at ACEEE. "Thankfully for Ohio, utilities recognize some of the opportunities to capture these emerging technologies and will be able to help their customers save money over the coming years."

Molina continued, "Our report finds even more ground can be covered at low cost in areas where Ohio could see benefits immediately, like multifamily housing and LEDs, and in technologies such as 'smart' thermostats that are just now emerging."

Energy Efficiency Grows Ohio's Economy

When utilities run better and more innovative programs that target a wide range of consumers, they add to Ohio's growing clean energy economy. For example, AEP estimated that its energy efficiency programs will create 4,000 jobs over the next few years. And that's just one of four major utilities that run programs in the state.

Energy efficiency companies in Ohio see this potential first hand.

According to Greg Smith, President and CEO of Energy Optimizers, USA in Tipp City, Ohio, which retrofits schools and other government buildings across the state, "We're only hitting the tip of the iceberg in Ohio with how much we can improve the efficiency of homes and businesses, along with commercial and industrial facilities. In the last few years, my business has taken off as we continue to rapidly expand our team. We've grown from a true start-up to a $14,000,000 a year company. We have smart people from right here in Ohio who we want to put to work immediately. It's that simple--we just need the right ingredients and investments to make it happen."

Ohio Shouldn't Wait to Reinstate its Clean Energy Standards

Unfortunately, the future of these programs is in jeopardy.

Just as energy efficiency and renewable policies were taking off, Ohio passed SB 310, which froze these policies at their 2014 levels and pushed back the deadline to meet the 22.2% energy efficiency target by two years. A committee was established to examine the clean energy policies and determine their fate, which remains uncertain.

The committee is set to release a report in September and may make recommendations on the future of Ohio's energy landscape, including whether these cost-saving programs will continue to exist.

But one thing is clear: energy efficiency efforts in Ohio still have plenty of fruit to bear. Luckily Ohioans are still craving ways to save money by lowering their energy use, which brings all kinds of benefits like cleaner air and more jobs to the state.

ACEEE's report comes at a critical time, right when Ohio will begin developing its approach to meeting the final Clean Power Plan--our nation's first-ever limits on carbon pollution from the electric power sector. Recent analysis confirms that Ohio's energy efficiency and renewables standards are all the state needs to get there. And, thanks to ACEEE's findings, we know that Ohio has a deep well of opportunity to tap in the energy efficiency sector.

This report adds to the mounting evidence, and hopefully the committee will come to the same conclusion ACEEE did--that these programs are integral to low-cost power and will continue to reap benefits for in the state today and tomorrow.

Ohioans are ready to recommit to these clean energy standards, and businesses are too. What are we waiting for?