RICHLAND, Wash. – Energy efficiency is growing in the Pacific Northwest, according to a report by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. The more energy efficient the region is, the less power that has to be generated.
Right now, energy efficiency makes up about 17 percent of the Northwest’s demand. That’s second to hydropower, which generates 55 percent of the power in the region.
Tom Karier is the Washington member of the council. He said the Northwest is on its way to meeting a five-year goal of conserving 1,200 megawatts – enough energy to power a city half the size of Seattle.
“At the time that we [set the target], I think a lot of utilities and others in the region thought that, that would be difficult. It required a higher level for energy efficiency than we had sustained in the past.” Karier said. “But in the first two years, we have exceeded those targets by 25 percent.”
He said there may be less federal support in the future, which means energy efficiency may not grow as rapidly through federal programs. But Karier said utilities would support the 1,200-megawatt goal.
One major way to increase energy efficiency – and save money – is in your home. You can:
Replace large appliances, like refrigerators, clothes and dish washers. Karier says new appliances “are far more efficient than models even 10 years ago, maybe even five years ago.”
Replace old water heating systems with heat pump water heaters.
Add more insulation to your home.
Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs.
The major ways for industries and commercial buildings to become more efficient include:
Replacing old motors and pumps.
Upgrade lighting systems.
Upgrade heating and cooling systems.
To figure out efficiency targets, the Council compares old and new technology, estimates how many new technologies are in the Northwest, and how many old technologies can be converted.
Karier said ratepayers save more than $1 billion each year because of more energy efficient technologies.
The council hopes energy efficiency can improve by 6,000 more megawatts once this goal is reached.
In its report, the council also found that wind power generation might decrease in the Northwest. That comes in part because of a 2011 California bill that capped the amount of renewable energy that can be imported into the state. California currently buys much of the wind power generated in the Northwest. Karier said the Northwest may have already approached the new limit.
“We don’t expect a lot more development in the Northwest for California alone,” He said. “There will be development in the Northwest to meet the renewable portfolio standards within the Northwest states, but growth rate will probably be lower because of that California effect.”