Energy Efficiency Investment Shows Pay Off in New England Forecast

Nov. 12, 2013
New England’s big investment in energy efficiency is paying off. Yes, demand for electricity is growing. But energy efficiency is canceling out the increase, according to a 10-year ISO New England forecast. Take a look at the findings in the grid operator’s 2013 Regional System Plan.

By increasing energy efficiency and demand response, we decrease the need to build new power plants.  That’s the theory. And  it’s proving true in New England, with the region’s efforts to save energy beginning to show some real impact.

ISO New England forecasts that energy efficiency will cancel out demand for new power over the next ten years in its 2013 Regional System Plan, issued Nov. 8. The grid operator prepares the report annually to show the region’s upcoming needs over ten years.

Without energy efficiency, New England would see electricity consumption grow an average 1.1 percent annually and summer peak demand 1.4 percent annually through 2022, according to the grid operator.

But “when the energy-saving effects of EE are included, the forecast shows essentially no long-run growth in electric energy use and 0.9 percent annual growth in annual summer peak demand,” the report said.

In many ways, the numbers are not surprising. New England is arguably the national leader when it comes to energy efficiency. Massachusetts was the top ranked state for energy efficiency in this year’s scoring by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. And three other New England states – Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont – were in the top ten. Maine, which scored 16th, was named one of the most improved states.

The ISO looked carefully at the period from 2016 to 2022 and found region-wide savings likely to be 9,503 GWh, based on an energy efficiency investment of $800 million annually by the states.  Savings range from a low of 58 GWh in New Hampshire to a high of 761 GWh in Massachusetts.

The report estimated a peak load reduction during that time of 1,353 MW. To show the significance of that number, it’s just shy of the size of New England’s largest coal-fired plant, Brayton Point. On the state level, annual average peak savings range from a low of 10 MW in Maine and New Hampshire to a high of 110 MW in Massachusetts

If the expectations hold, by 2022 New England will get 11.3 percent of its power resources from negawatts, not megawatts.  No small showing. The full ISO report is here.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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