Wide Bandgap Semiconductors – LED’s and the Future of Power Electronics

Hidden inside nearly every modern electronic is a technology — called power electronics — that is quietly making our wor…

Source: www.youtube.com

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“Hidden inside nearly every modern electronic is a technology — called power electronics — that is quietly making our world run. Yet, as things like our phones, appliances and cars advance, current power electronics will no longer be able to meet our needs, making it essential that we invest in the future of this technology.

Today [January 15, 2014], President Obama will announce that North Carolina State University will lead the Energy Department’s new manufacturing innovation institute for the next generation of power electronics. The institute will work to drive down the costs of and build America’s manufacturing leadership in wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor-based power electronics — leading to more affordable products for businesses and consumers, billions of dollars in energy savings and high-quality U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Integral to consumer electronics and many clean energy technologies, power electronics can be found in everything from electric vehicles and industrial motors, to laptop power adaptors and inverters that connect solar panels and wind turbines to the electric grid. For nearly 50 years, silicon chips have been the basis of power electronics. However, as clean energy technologies and the electronics industry has advanced, silicon chips are reaching their limits in power conversion — resulting in wasted heat and higher energy consumption.

Power electronics that use WBG semiconductors have the potential to change all this. WBG semiconductors operate at high temperatures, frequencies and voltages — all helping to eliminate up to 90 percent of the power losses in electricity conversion compared to current technology. This in turn means that power electronics can be smaller because they need fewer semiconductor chips, and the technologies that rely on power electronics — like electric vehicle chargers, consumer appliances and LEDs — will perform better, be more efficient and cost less.

One of three new institutes in the President’s National Network of Manufacturing Innovation, the Energy Department’s institute will develop the infrastructure needed to make WBG semiconductor-based power electronics cost competitive with silicon chips in the next five years. Working with more than 25 partners across industry, academia, and state and federal organizations, the institute will provide shared research and development, manufacturing equipment, and product testing to create new semiconductor technology that is up to 10 times more powerful that current chips on the market. Through higher education programs and internships, the institute will ensure that the U.S. has the workforce necessary to be the leader in the next generation of power electronics manufacturing.

Watch our latest video on how wide bandgap semiconductors could impact clean energy technology and our daily lives.”

source:  http://energy.gov/articles/wide-bandgap-semiconductors-essential-our-technology-future

 

Clothes Dryers Latest Home Appliance to Obtain Energy Star Certification

For the first time in six years, Energy Star certification, a standard seal of approval for energy efficiency, has been expanded to include another major household appliance. Clothes dryers, perhaps the last of …

Source: www.pddnet.com

>” […] Clothes dryers, perhaps the last of the major household appliances to be included in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s program, became available in 45 Energy Star models starting Presidents’ Day weekend, according to the EPA.

“Dryers are one of the most common household appliances and the biggest energy users,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

While washing machines have become 70 percent more energy-efficient since 1990, dryers — used by an estimated 80 percent of American households — have continued to use a high amount of energy, the agency says. […]

“Refrigerators were the dominant energy consumer in 1981. Now dryers are the last frontier in the home for radical energy conservation,” said Charles Hall, senior manager of product development for Whirlpool.

Energy Star-certified dryers include gas, electric and compact models. Manufacturers offering them include LG, Whirlpool, Kenmore, Maytag and Safemate.

All of the energy-efficient models include moisture sensors to ensure that the dryer does not continue running after the clothes are dry, which reduces energy consumption by around 20 percent, the EPA says.

In addition, two of the Energy Star-approved models — LG’s EcoHybrid Heat Pump Dryer (model DLHX4072) and Whirlpool’s HybridCare Heat Pump Dryer (model WED99HED) — also include innovative “heat pump” technology, which reduces energy consumption by around 40 percent more than that, the EPA and manufacturers say.

Heat-pump dryers combine conventional vented drying with heat-pump technology, which recycles heat. The technology, long common in much of Europe, is similar to that used in air conditioners and dehumidifiers.

Although Energy Star models can cost roughly $600 more than comparable standard models, Hall said the higher cost is more than balanced out by energy savings and up to $600 rebates offered by government and utility incentive programs.

But the real impact will be felt once the transition to Energy Star models is complete. According to the EPA, if all the clothes dryers sold in the U.S. this year were Energy Star-certified, it would save an estimated $1.5 billion in annual utility costs and prevent yearly greenhouse-gas emissions equal to more than 2 million vehicles.

To earn the Energy Star label, products must be certified by an EPA-recognized third party based on rigorous testing in an EPA-recognized laboratory.”<

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US Utilities #1 Priority is to Replace and Modernize Old Grid Infrastructure

The State of the Electric Utility 2015 survey revealed that aging infrastructure is what troubles industry players most.

Source: www.utilitydive.com

>” Utility executives identified aging infrastructure as the number one challenge facing the electric industry, […] easily topping an aging workforce, regulatory models and stagnant load growth. In response, the industry is spending hundreds of billions to replace and upgrade infrastructure, rushing to meet consumer demand for higher quality power enabled by construction of a more modern grid.

“The last few years there’s been more of an emphasis on transmission and distribution, and the driver there has been the advent of all these new technologies that are trying to connect with the grid,” said Richard McMahon, Jr., vice president of energy supply and finance for the Edison Electric Institute, the electric utility trade organization. “There are also a lot of customer-driven desires utilities are trying to facilitate. There’s a lot of spending on metering automation, as well as at the distribution level, distribution transformers to accommodate distributed generation.”

Today’s grid may not be up to the task of reliably integrating high levels of renewables, distributed energy resources, and smart grid technologies, Utility Dive found. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave U.S. energy infrastructure a barely passing grade of D+ in 2013, at stark odds with the sophisticated grid management required by the rapid acceleration of utility-scale renewables, distributed resources and two-way devices.

“Distributed energy cannot be a profit center without the modernized grid infrastructure that’s needed for grid integration,” Utility Dive concluded in the report. […]

Outages on the rise

The American Society of Civil Engineers report that gave U.S. infrastructure a barely-passing grade pointed out that aging equipment “has resulted in an increasing number of intermittent power disruptions, as well as vulnerability to cyber attacks.”

Significant power outages rose to more than 300 in 2011, up from about 75 in 2007, and the report found many transmission and distribution outages have been attributed to system operations failures, though from 2007 to 2012 water was the primary cause of major outages.

“While 2011 had more weather-related events that disrupted power, overall there was a slightly improved performance from the previous years,” the report said. “Reliability issues are also emerging due to the complex process of rotating in new energy sources and ‘retiring’ older infrastructure.

ASCE said that for now, the United States has sufficient capacity to meet demands, but from 2011 through 2020 demand for electricity in all regions is expected to increase 8% or 9%. The report forecasts that the U.S. will add 108 GW of generation by 2016.

“After 2020, capacity expansion is forecast to be a greater problem, particularly with regard to generation, regardless of the energy resource mix,” the report said. “Excess capacity, known as planning reserve margin, is expected to decline in a majority of regions, and generation supply could dip below resource requirements by 2040 in every area except the Southwest without prudent investments.” […]”<

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Hospital Retrofits Heating and Domestic-Hot-Water Systems For Substantial Energy Savings

At Holton Community Hospital in rural Holton, Kan., two cast-iron atmospheric boilers and three gas-fired water heaters that had been in place for nearly 20 years were operating inefficiently.

Source: hpac.com

>” […] Based on the boiler-plate outputs and firing rates of the existing boilers and domestic water heaters at design conditions and outputs, three Knight XL heating boilers with inputs of 500,000 Btuh, two 119-gal. Squire indirect water heaters, and a 119-gal. buffer tank were selected. […]

On one of the Knight XL heating boilers, a Grundfos MAGNA3 variable-speed circulator pump was installed. The boiler controls the speed of the pump using the built-in Smart System. When the boiler modulates down, the pump slows to maintain a constant temperature rise across the heat exchanger at all times. Reducing pump revolutions reduces power consumption tremendously.

Monitoring equipment was placed on both the lead boiler and the member boiler not dedicated to domestic water. The lead boiler had the MAGNA3 40-80 F variable-speed circulator pump, while the member boiler used the UPS 43-100 F constant-speed circulator pump.

For analysis, the team compared two similar days, March 20 and 21, at a time when only the two monitored boilers would be running. At that time, domestic water use would be unlikely, reducing the chance the third boiler would fire and affect the measured values.Figure 1 shows the power consumed by the constant-speed circulator and the variable-speed circulator when each was the lead.

Lochinvar Chart2_AMD

FIGURE 1. Pump power consumption.

 

 

Pump-speed modulation resulted in significant energy savings. The MAGNA3 reached a maximum power usage of 270 W, but slowed to a minimum of just over 50 W, while the UPS ran at a continuous 365 W. Over the course of the hour, the MAGNA3 averaged 156 W.

With Smart System, the boiler adjusts the flow through its heat exchanger to control delta-T as well as system median temperature. Delta-T across the boiler is constant, resulting in enhanced building comfort, increased heat transfer, and electricity savings.

In January 2014, Holton Community Hospital spent a total of $1,207.31 on gas and electricity. In comparison, the hospital’s gas and electricity bills for January 2013 were $2,805.41—more than twice as much. […]”<

See on Scoop.itGreen Building Operations – Systems & Controls, Maintenance & Commissioning

Minimum Efficiency Standards for Electric Motors to Increase – DOE

DOE’s analyses estimate lifetime savings for electric motors purchased over the 30-year period that begins in the year of compliance with new and amended standards (2016-45) to be 7.0 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu). The annualized energy savings—0.23 quadrillion Btu—is equivalent to 1% of total U.S. industrial primary electricity consumption in 2013.

Source: www.eia.gov

>” Nearly half of the electricity consumed in the manufacturing sector is used for powering motors, such as for fans, pumps, conveyors, and compressors. About two thirds of this machine-drive consumption occurs in the bulk chemicals, food, petroleum and coal products, primary metals, and paper industries. For more than three decades the efficiency of new motors has been regulated by federal law. Beginning in mid-2016, an updated standard established this year by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for electric motors will once again increase the minimum efficiency of new motors.

The updated electric motor standards apply the standards currently in place to a wider scope of electric motors, generating significant estimated energy savings. […]

Legislation has increased the federal minimum motor efficiencies requirements over the past two decades, covering motors both manufactured and imported for sale in the United States. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct) set minimum efficiency levels for all motors up to 200 horsepower (hp) purchased after October 1997. The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 updated the EPAct standards starting December 2010, including 201-500 hp motors. EISA assigns minimum, nominal, full-load efficiency ratings according to motor subtype and size. The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 also requires DOE to establish the most stringent standards that are both technologically feasible and economically justifiable, and to periodically update these standards as technology and economics evolve.

Motors typically fail every 5 to 15 years, depending on the size of the motor. When they fail they can either be replaced or repaired (rewound). When motors are rewound, their efficiencies typically diminish by a small amount. Large motors tend to be more efficient than small motors, and they tend to be used for more hours during the year. MotorMaster+ and MotorMaster+ International, distributed by the U.S. Department of Energy and developed by the Washington State University Cooperative Extension Energy Program in conjunction with the Bonneville Power Administration, are sources for cost and performance data on replacing and rewinding motors.

Improving the efficiency of motor systems, rather than just improving the efficiency of individual motors, may hold greater potential for savings in machine-drive electricity consumption. Analysis from the U.S. Department of Energy shows that more than 70% of the total potential motor system energy savings is estimated to be available through system improvements by reducing system load requirements, reducing or controlling motor speed, matching component sizes to the load, upgrading component efficiency, implementing better maintenance practices, and downsizing the motor when possible.”<

 

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Energy Efficiency in Buildings – How VFD’s Save Energy

Have you wondered why Pumps and Fans are such a great opportunity to save energy using variable speed drives? ABB can help you estimate your energy savings a…

Source: www.youtube.com

>”  Efficiencies of Motors and Drives

The full load efficiency of AC electric motors range from around 80% for the smallest motors to over 95% for motors over 100 HP. The efficiency of an electric motor drops significantly as the load is reduced below 40%. Good practice dictates that motors should be sized so that full load operation corresponds to 75% of the rated power of the motor. […]

The efficiency of an electric motor and drive system is the ratio of mechanical output power to electrical input power and is most often expressed as a percentage.

Motor System Efficiency =Output MechanicalInput Electrical x 100%

A VFD is very efficient. Typical efficiencies of 97% or more are available at full load. At reduced loads the efficiency drops. Typically, VFDs over 10 HP have over 90% efficiency for loads greater than 25% of full load. This is the operating range of interest for practical applications. […]

The system efficiency is lower than the product of motor efficiency and VFD efficiency because the motor efficiency varies with load and because of the effects of harmonics on the motor.

Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to know what the motor/ drive system efficiency will be, but because the power input to a variable torque system drops so remarkably with speed, an estimate of the system efficiencies is really all that is needed.

When calculating the energy consumption of a motor drive system, estimated system efficiency in the range of 80-90 % can be used with motors ranging from 10 HP and larger and loads of 25% and greater.

In general, lower efficiency ranges correspond to small motor sizes and loads and higher efficiency ranges corresponds to larger motors and loads.

b. Comparison with Conventional Control Methods

Estimating Energy Savings

Fans and pumps are designed to be capable of meeting the maximum demand of the system in which they are installed.

However, quite often the actual demand could vary and be much less than the designed capacity. These conditions are accommodated by adding outlet dampers to fans or throttling valves to pumps.

These are effective and simple controls, but severely affect the efficiency of the system.

Using a VFD to control the fan or pump is a more efficient means of flow control than simple valves or inlet or outlet dampers. The power input to fans and pumps varies with the cube of the speed, so even seemingly small changes in speed can greatly impact the power required by the load. […]

In addition to major energy savings potential, a drive also offers built-in power factor correction, better process control and motor protection. […]”<*

* Extracted from:  http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/products/reference/15385

See on Scoop.itGreen Building Design – Architecture & Engineering

Reduce Costs and Energy Use Through Elevator Efficiency Upgrades

Buying or installing elevator equipment that promotes low-energy consumption can help save money and reduce a building’s environmental footprint.

Source: highrisefacilities.com

>”As part of a building’s overall energy usage, elevators consume up to 10 percent of the total energy in a building. From an environmental standpoint, the most significant impact elevators have is the electricity use while the elevator is in service. Therefore, buying or installing elevator equipment that promotes low-energy consumption can help save money and reduce a building’s environmental footprint.

Buildings and Energy

One way to measure overall energy usage is by calculating the power factor (PF) of the building and/or its energy-consuming devices. These are generally motors, transformers, high intensity discharge (HID) lighting, fluorescent devices or other pieces of equipment that require magnetism to operate. […]

Power factor is a measurement of electrical system efficiency in the distribution and consumption of electrical energy. It is the percentage of the amount of electric power being provided that is converted into real work and expressed as a number between zero and one. For example, if a device had a .70 PF, then 70 percent of the power that the utilities generate to run the device is actually being converted into real work. The lower the PF number, the poorer the PF efficiency. The higher the PF number, the greater the PF efficiency.

In some areas, utilities use PF in the computation of the demand charge. A low PF for a customer’s facility could result in a demand charge penalty that increases the monthly demand cost. This is where newer, more innovative elevator control systems can contribute to lower energy consumption and improve a buildings’ overall PF.

Because of electrical losses caused during generation, distribution and consumption of electricity, the amount of power needed to be provided by a utility company will be greater than the amount for which they get paid by consumers.

Comparative Analysis

During a recent modernization of two identical traction elevators, before and after energy data was collected. The original, first generation silicon controlled rectifier (SCR), direct current (DC) motor control was measured using a series of fixed run patterns and known loads. After modernization, the new insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT)-based alternating current (AC) motor control for a permanent magnet synchronous motor system was measured using the same run patterns and known loads.

The SCR-DC system used far more energy (watts/hour) to move the exact same load through the exact same distance compared to the IGBT-based permanent magnet AC control (Chart 1). In fact, in these six load tests, the IGBT-based system used less than half the energy. An incredible 383 percent increase in power factor of the IGBT-based system compared to the SCR-DC system (Chart 2). That means more of the energy consumed was being converted into real work with less waste in terms of heat and magnetism.

These kinds of energy usage reductions and PF increases are becoming even greater as newer elevator technology gets incorporated into buildings (Chart 3).

It’s easy to see how reducing energy consumption and increasing power rating can benefit the building’s owners and operators. However, these same improvements benefit the community as well. The electricity not being used in one building can be used by other customers — allowing utilities to meet the community’s electricity demand without increasing electricity generation. That translates into no rolling blackouts or brownouts, no new power plants being built and an overall smaller environmental footprint.

Hydraulic Elevators

Up to this point, traction elevator technology was discussed where wire ropes pull the elevator from above the car. In contrast, the hydraulic elevator pushes the elevator cab through the hoistway. The way a hydraulic system works is a piston and cylinder are sunk in the ground below the elevator. To go up, a pump forces oil from an oil tank reservoir into the cylinder — causing the piston to rise, making the elevator cab go up. To go down, gravity and the weight of the cab pushes the piston down into the cylinder and forces the hydraulic oil back into the tank reservoir. Historically, hydraulic elevators (or hydros) have been installed where either the building had fewer floors (typically six to eight) or lower material and installation costs were a consideration (when compared to a traction elevator). […]

Considerations Beyond the Hoistway

Energy reduction of a building’s elevators can also impact heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Quite often, elevator machine rooms are air conditioned to support removal of the heat generated by elevator control systems. Motor-generator-based elevator controls create a tremendous amount of heat; the effect is multiplied when several systems are contained in the same machine room.

Additionally, a check should be made of the shut-down timer typically employed with motor-generators (M-G) sets. Is it working? Does the M-G set turn off after a set period of time? Or has the timer failed and no longer shuts down the motor-generator, wasting energy as the M-G set turns but no work is being done by the elevator?

The elevator cab’s lighting can impact both the energy consumption and HVAC systems. A recent survey conducted of a 34-story high rise office building with 18 elevators showed the cab lights were on 24-hours a day. There are 28 incandescent light bulbs per elevator. That worked out to 100-amps of power being consumed continuously. By replacing the incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, energy consumption could be cut to 30 percent. And if a 24-hour clock timer is added to shut the lights off at midnight, even more energy could be saved.

Reducing Energy Consumption

Finally, if you’re considering an elevator modernization, call your electric provider or visit their Website to explore the possibility of energy rebates from the local utility provider. It is quite common for utilities to offer dollar incentives for specific building improvements that reduce energy consumption and improve PF.

There are various benefits to building owners and facility managers who lower their power consumption and understand how power factor helps reduce the overall cost of energy, particularly the energy used to run the elevators in their buildings. These benefits go beyond the elevators themselves to include benefits derived from HVAC systems, cab lighting and energy consumed when the elevators are not moving that affect the monthly utility bill.”

 

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Determining the True Cost (LCOE) of Battery Energy Storage

The true cost of energy storage depends on the so-called LCOE = Round-trip efficiency + maintenance costs + useful life of the energy system

Source: www.triplepundit.com

By Anna W. Aamone

“With regard to [battery] energy storage systems, many people erroneously think that the only cost they should consider is the initial – that is, the cost of generating electricity per kilowatt-hour. However, they are not aware of another very important factor.

This is the so-called LCOE, levelized cost of energy(also known as cost of electricity by source), which helps calculate the price of the electricity generated by a specific source. The LCOE also includes other costs associated with producing or storing that energy, such as maintenance and operating costs, residual value, the useful life of the system and the round-trip efficiency. […]

Batteries and round-trip efficiency

[…] due to poor maintenance, inefficiencies or heat, part of the energy captured in the battery is released … or rather, lost. The idea of round-trip efficiency is to determine the overall efficiency of a system (in that case, batteries) from the moment it is charged to the moment the energy is discharged. In other words, it helps to calculate the amount of energy that gets lost between charging and discharging (a “round trip”).

[…] So, as it turns out, using batteries is not free either. And it has to be added to the final cost of the energy storage system.

Maintenance costs

[…] An energy storage system requires regular check-ups so that it operates properly in the years to come. Note that keeping such a system running smoothly can be quite pricey. Some batteries need to be maintained more often than others. Therefore when considering buying an energy storage system, you need to take into account this factor. […]

Useful life of the energy system

Another important factor in determining the true cost of energy storage is a system’s useful life. Most of the time, this is characterized by the number of years a system is likely to be running. However, when it comes to batteries, there is another factor to take into account: use. […]

More often than not, the life of a battery depends on the number of charge and discharge cycles it goes through. Imagine a battery has about 10,000 charge-discharge cycles. When they are complete, the battery will wear out, no matter if it has been used for two or for five years.

[…] [However] flow batteries can be charged and discharged a million times without wearing out. Hence, cycling is not an issue with this type of battery, and you should keep this in mind before selecting an energy storage system. Think twice about whether you want to use batteries that wear out too quickly because their useful life depends on the number of times they are charged and discharged. Or would you rather use flow batteries, the LCOE of which is much lower than that of standard batteries?

So, what do we have so far?

LCOE = Round-trip efficiency + maintenance costs + useful life of the energy system.

These are three of the most important factors that determine the LCOE. Make sure you consider all the factors that determine the true cost of energy storage systems before you buy one.

Image credit: Flickr/INL”

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What is “Levelized Cost of Energy” or LCOE?

As a financial tool, LCOE is very valuable for the comparison of various generation options. A relatively low LCOE means that electricity is being produced at a low cost, with higher likely returns for the investor. If the cost for a renewable technology is as low as current traditional costs, it is said to have reached “Grid Parity“.

Source: www.renewable-energy-advisors.com

>”LCOE (levelized cost of energy) is one of the utility industry’s primary metrics for the cost of electricity produced by a generator. It is calculated by accounting for all of a system’s expected lifetime costs (including construction, financing, fuel, maintenance, taxes, insurance and incentives), which are then divided by the system’s lifetime expected power output (kWh). All cost and benefit estimates are adjusted for inflation and discounted to account for the time-value of money. […]

LCOE Estimates for Renewable Energy

When an electric utility plans for a conventional plant, it must consider the effects of inflation on future plant maintenance, and it must estimate the price of fuel for the plant decades into the future. As those costs rise, they are passed on to the ratepayer. A renewable energy plant is initially more expensive to build, but has very low maintenance costs, and no fuel cost, over its 20-30 year life. As the following 2012 U.S. Govt. forecast illustrates, LCOE estimates for conventional sources of power depend on very uncertain fuel cost estimates. These uncertainties must be factored into LCOE comparisons between different technologies.

LCOE estimates may or may not include the environmental costs associated with energy production. Governments around the world have begun to quantify these costs by developing various financial instruments that are granted to those who generate or purchase renewable energy. In the United States, these instruments are called Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). To learn more about environmental costs, visit our Greenhouse Gas page.

LCOE estimates do not normally include less tangible risks that may have very large effects on a power plant’s actual cost to ratepayers. Imagine, for example, the LCOE estimates used for nuclear power plants in Japan before the Fukushima incident, compared to the eventual costs for those plants.

Location

An important determination of photovoltaic LCOE is the system’s location. The LCOE of a system built in Southern Utah, for example, is likely to be lower than that of an identical system built in Northern Utah. Although the cost of building the two systems may be similar, the system with the most access to the sun will perform better, and deliver the most value to its owner. […]”<

 

 

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Energy Efficiency Development and Adoption in the United States for 2015

The US wastes about 61% of the energy we produce — much of it due to how we generate, transmit, and distribute it.

Source: theenergycollective.com
I
mage Source:  http://www.seas.columbia.edu/earth/RRC/waste_material_utilization.html

>” […] Energy efficiency, simply put, is using less energy to get the same output or value. Ways of being more energy efficient include using appliances that use less energy or reducing air leakage from our homes and buildings. Programs to increase energy efficiency date back to the energy crises of the 1970s, and continue to be hugely successful today.

Take Michigan for example, where recent data from the Public Service Commission show that the $253 million Michigan utilities spent on energy efficiency programs in 2013 will yield a $948 million return in savings in the coming years. That’s an excellent investment, no matter who you talk to. And Michigan is by no means an anomaly.

We’ve seen states throughout the country see the same kinds of positive returns for their investments in energy efficiency, which continues to prove itself the cheapest “fuel” — investments in energy efficiency per unit of energy output are less costly than both traditional fossil fuels and clean renewable fuels.

Energy efficiency programs are administered by utilities, state agencies, or other third parties, and typically funded by modest charges on ratepayers’ energy bills. While some worry that this causes energy bills to go up, they also cause energy costs to go down, as widespread efficiency upgrades decrease the demand for energy across the state or the utility’s service area, reducing consumer costs. And the customers who participate directly in the programs reap the biggest savings.

It’s a wonder not all states are investing in these kinds of innovative, proven programs. But much of the resistance can be attributed to low energy prices and a lack of political will to charge customers a bit more, even if it does mean big returns. With energy prices steadily rising, such programs will become increasingly attractive to utility regulators and customers. Even historically lagging states like Arkansas and Kentucky are starting to jump on the energy efficiency bandwagon.

No matter where we live or what our personal circumstances are, there’s always room to make changes to improve our energy consumption, whether we make a big investment like installing better insulation, or small simple changes like turning down the thermostat a few degrees in the winter.

As we think about what changes we’re planning to make in 2015, we can look internally at how to reduce energy waste in our own homes and workplaces, as well as help our neighborhoods, communities, and local and state governments make informed decisions to invest in energy efficiency. Even as our energy starts coming from cleaner sources across the country, we can do our part to reduce waste in the energy we already generate — and efficiency is the quickest and cheapest place to look.”<

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