To most outsiders, the world of energy efficiency probably appears static with slow, incremental changes. A furnace rebate here, light bulb swap-out there, maybe an updated building energy code every few years. But it should come as no surprise to industry insiders that this isn’t the case at all. An explosion of new technology across every part of our economy is rapidly changing our energy savings goals and the ways we identify and capture those savings.
Building efficiency experts from around the Midwest convened in Ann Arbor, MI on November 15-16 for the 8th Annual Midwest Building Energy Codes Conference. This was the first time this conference was hosted in Michigan, which helped MEEA and attendees understand the unique challenges to the Michigan building community and provided critical local perspectives to better inform future building energy code policy. In past years, MEEA had the opportunity to host this conference and learn from local groups in Ohio, Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois.
The average Midwesterner pays 65% more for electricity than they did at the turn of the millennium. Saving energy is a key way to help lower customer bills even with rising rates. Utility Consumer Advocates (UCAs) represent residential customers before regulators and legislatures, and they use their expertise to help ensure ratepayer dollars are spent prudently and cost-effectively.
As a membership organization that includes utilities, businesses, advocates and government agencies, MEEA knows the power of collaboration. Time and again, we’ve seen first-hand that when diverse groups sit down at the table together, we’re able to harness our collective expertise and experience to find solutions that work for everyone.
And we’re not the only ones who think collaboration is a powerful tool. Several states in the Midwest currently convene collaborative groups to promote energy efficiency.
The Midwest has a strong track record of creativity and innovation: sliced bread, improv comedy, the Model T and, best of all, Post-It notes! And now we see that same spirit of innovation being pursued within the utility sector.
In my July 18 blog post, I alluded to the Missouri Public Service Commission’s (PSC) inquiry into emerging issues in utility regulation. Missouri is one of four Midwest states that have, or are undertaking, “utility 2.0” or “utility of the future” exploratory initiatives.
In April, the PSC issued an order (EW-2017-0245) opening a working case to explore five emerging issues:
On March 22, 2017, the Illinois Commerce Commission passed a resolution initiating the NextGrid Utility of the Future Study. NextGrid will be an 18-month collaborative process to explore the ways in which alternative utility regulatory models, advances in technology, and consumer preferences and engagement can shape the grid of the future. This initiative will build upon the 2011 Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, the Illinois Statewide Smart Grid Collaborative and the recent Future Energy Jobs Act.
Did you know that for every 10 Chicagoans, there is a hard-working street light brightening their path? In fact, the largest city in the Midwest has a network of more than 300,000 street lights that collectively form a nightlight visible from space. Until now, less than 2% of these lights have been converted to LED, the new standard in efficient, effective outdoor lighting, but that’s about to change.
Net-zero energy (NZE)buildings come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in every climate zone. The Midwest is home to many NZE buildings, and public buildings are helping to lead the way.
The New Buildings Institute compiled the 2016 List of Zero Net Energy Buildings report, which lists the current net-zero energy buildings across the country. Below are a few Midwestern NZE public buildings discussed on a recent MEEA policy webinar.*
Building system controls that automate the use of HVAC, lighting and ventilation systems in commercial buildings continue to become more sophisticated, and the model energy code is keeping pace with these changes. In fact, since 2004, a third of all changes to the model energy code for commercial buildings are related to building system controls. Given this pace of change, it is reasonable to wonder if building professionals are able to ensure that energy systems are designed, installed and configured properly.
Multifamily housing is a substantial portion of the housing stock in Midwestern states, making up 11-22% of the housing market, depending on the state. Energy efficiency for multifamily housing seems like a sure bet. Estimates show possible energy savings in multifamily affordable housing as high as 22-31%.