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Utilities’ Energy Policies Could Save Billions for States, Study Says

Utility programs that save energy could create an economic windfall of $20 billion for six southwestern states, according to a study “The $20 Billion Bonanza: Best Practice Utility Energy Efficiency Programs and Their Benefits for the Southwest.” The report was released by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), based in Colorado. It shows that every dollar invested in energy efficiency programs returns more than two dollars in savings on business and household utility bills. These programs educate consumers, offer technical assistance and provide financial incentives.

The study found that 28,000 new jobs would be created regionally by 2020 if all utilities in the region implement such programs and measures. Also, the report says it is feasible to achieve a 21 percent reduction in electricity by the year 2020 from energy efficiency programs implemented in the 2010-2020 period.

Reaching this target would save the equivalent of electricity used by 4.6 million typical households in the southwest and require an investment of $17 billion. The investment would be split between utilities and their customers and yield a resulting savings on energy purchases along with public health benefits of $37 billion—or a net savings of $20 billion, the study concluded.

Other benefits, if utilities implement best-practice efficiency programs, according to the report:

  • Avoid or close 32 large power plants in the region.
  • Reduce CO2 emissions from power plants equivalent to taking 6.2 million passenger vehicles off the road by 2020.
  • Save 18.5 billion gallons of water per year by 2020 through less power plant operation.

The report identifies the most effective utility energy efficiency programs across the country and analyzes the costs and benefits of implementing these programs in the southwestern states of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The report includes descriptions of the programs, state-by-state analysis, and a roadmap that policymakers can follow to achieve the 21 percent energy savings goal by 2020.

SWEEP is a public interest organization promoting greater energy efficiency. It was founded in 2001 by Howard Geller, who previously served as the Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy in Washington, DC.

In 2010, Arizona passed a measure to require electric utilities to reduce the amount of power they sell as part of a drive to help businesses and homeowners conserve energy.

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