The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) approved a $55 million budget for energy efficiency and demand-side management programs in 2020 for the state’s largest electric utility, NV Energy. Investing in energy efficiency saves customers money on their bills, improves public health, creates good-paying jobs, conserves water, and reduces planet-warming emissions. Demand-side management programs encourage customers to change patterns in their energy usage to improve grid operations.
The PUCN approved programs corresponding to an energy efficiency savings goal of 1.25 percent of total utility energy sales. If NV Energy reaches this 2020 goal, homes and businesses served by the utility would avoid wasting nearly 358 million kilowatt-hours (kWH) of electricity in 2020. This is equivalent to the energy use of about 33,000 Nevada homes, or nearly every household in Sparks. It’s also a big improvement over previous years. Between 2012 and 2017, the utility achieved energy savings between 0.56 percent and 0.75 percent of total sales, or 182 million and 247 million kWh. The 2020 goal is 44 percent higher than NV Energy’s achieved savings in 2017, representing significant potential improvements in air quality and customer bill reductions.
The decision reflects a compromise between the utility, the Bureau of Consumer Protection, PUCN staff, and environmental organizations including NRDC, Sierra Club, and Nevadans for Clean, Affordable, and Reliable Energy (NCARE).
Reducing energy costs without customer sacrifice is important in a state that experiences temperature extremes on both a daily basis and a seasonal basis. In the summer, access to air conditioning in Southern Nevada is not a luxury: it’s necessary to prevent heat-related illnesses, emergency room visits, and deaths. The same applies to heating in Northern Nevada in the winter. Nevadans should never have to choose between the cooling and heating they need to stay healthy and other essentials, like food or lighting.
NV Energy’s energy efficiency services will continue to include education and outreach programs, discounts for efficient air conditioners, smart thermostats, pool pumps, and other energy saving appliances, free energy assessments, and more efficient lighting for homes and businesses. The energy assessments evaluate wall and ceiling insulation, recommend fixes for leaky windows, and suggest improved heating and cooling systems. Energy efficiency programs like these promise to increase comfort while reducing bills. The utility’s opt-in demand-side management (DSM) programs link smart appliances to grid operations in order to better manage energy demands during peak hours.
Following today’s decision, NV Energy should develop a meaningful and deliberate low-income energy efficiency program, as the legislature directed them to do in 2017 through SB 150. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senator Pat Spearman and signed by Governor Sandoval, requires 5 percent of energy efficiency spending to be directed toward programs serving low-income residents, representing $2.1 million in 2020. Nevadans experiencing energy burden, meaning they spend a disproportionate amount of their income on energy, stand to benefit immediately and in the long term from efficiency upgrades to their residences. Energy efficiency not only reduces their utility bills, but it can even improve their health and educational outcomes. Health benefits come in the form of reduced exposure to extreme temperatures, air pollution, and mold, while students with consistent access to electricity have been shown to perform better in school.
Energy efficiency is one of the cheapest and fastest tools we have to reduce climate pollution and conserve water while meeting our energy needs. Energy efficiency is also an economic engine that sustains over 11,100 jobs in Nevada, according to the E2 Clean Jobs Nevada Report. It also reduces utility bills, especially for families who often live in older, leakier, and less efficient homes and pay a disproportionate amount of their incomes for energy.
We look forward to seeing further exploration of cost-effective energy efficiency measures among the PUCN, NV Energy, and stakeholders in the future.