If you follow any BC news media, you’ll have noticed it’s difficult to avoid the red-hot topic of the Site C dam construction or the buzz about the installation of other renewables such as solar and wind. While conversation about these topics is valid and necessary, what if I mixed things up and told you there was a cleaner, more cost-effective resource right under your nose? Allow me to explain.
In meeting future energy needs, the best resource is the one we don't have to generate at all.
Energy efficiency can replace dams, solar farms, windmills, or fossil fuel-fired power plants. It’s time for energy efficiency to be included in the conversation and to get the recognition it deserves as a resource. When we talk about energy efficiency as a resource, we mean generating energy savings from efficiency upgrades that will off-set the need for additional electricity generation capacity from supply-side resources such as hydro, natural gas, wind or solar.
The American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) reports that energy savings from customer energy efficiency programs are typically achieved at 1/3 the cost of new generation resources. Yes, hydropower is relatively inexpensive as a resource – but what if we could prevent or post-pone the construction of a new dam with energy efficiency?
What will be key for this dynamic shift for utilities will be the consistent monitoring, measurement and reporting of the energy savings from energy efficiency programs. A critical component of a resource is knowing that the savings are real and can be counted on to meet demand as reliably as water flowing through a dam. task that current energy monitoring technology is more than capable of handling.
RANGE OF LEVELIZED COST OF ELECTRICITY RESOURCE OPTIONS
($ per MWh)
San Antonio: The best resource is the one we don't have to generate
In 2011, the municipality of San Antonio announced its plan to shut down its 900 MW coal-fired power plant in 2018. The power plant has been replaced with a combination of cleaner resources such as natural gas, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. Far from a side measure, energy efficiency is on track to save 771 MW of electricity between 2009 and 2020. This is a great real-world example of a utility stacking up energy efficiency measures to meet the same resource need, AND saving money in the process.