No Longer Background Noise: Resource Planning When Energy Efficiency Really Matters

Energy efficiency has commonly been treated as “background noise” during the resource planning process, particularly when annual energy savings were less than one percent of retail sales.More recently,the advent of energy efficiency resource standards and high, long-term savings goals has positioned energy efficiency to become a significant energy resource. As efficiency becomes a major resource in electric utility portfolios its impacts must be thoroughly understood. From a practical perspective, energy efficiency impacts must be accurately quantified and aligned with energy forecasts so that resource planners can count on efficiency to meet customer needs adequately. For decision-makers evaluating growing demand side management budgets, the impacts and value of energy efficiency investments must be clear.Additionally,achieving annual energy savings in excess of two percent of retail sales and addressing key energy, economic,and environmental policy objectives will require comprehensive programs and new engagement strategies that rely upon a multi-year planning approach.The resource planning process can offer a transparent, integrated framework to help achieve these multi-faceted objectives.We examine the treatment of electric end-use energy efficiency in resource plans recently issued or under-development in three regions with ambitious electric energy savings targets.Based upon our review,we identify and discuss issues, challenges, and approaches used,and highlight relevant examples. We conclude by offering recommendations on best practices for resource planning in an era of high energy efficiency goals.

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