Efficiency is often the piece of the puzzle described as the lowest hanging fruit, to mix a few good old fashioned metaphors. It works on a small scale, like if you change your light bulbs, but once you try to replicate across broad areas or industries, the cost simply don’t pan out.
Perhaps not. Coming into focus is a success story of a utility that actually made it happen. It’s not a sexy story, so if you’re allergic to statistics, you may want to stop here, but it centers on CPS Energy, a utility in San Antonio, Texas.
CPS has vowed to cut 771 megawatts of its generation through efficiency by 2020. That’s a big deal, considering it’s almost a tenth of the power the utility currently proves. According to a write-up in the Economist – which is super dense, which we at Spinach HQ read so you don’t have to – customers were given a series of rebates as incentives. Buy a highly-efficient cooling system instead of just the bare minimum kind, and you’re eligible. Go back for a refrigerator labeled ultra energy efficient, and the government may pay of the added cost.
The theory goes that the more people take advantage of this system, the more power gets saved, and the more everyone’s bills get reduced.
What’s interesting here, if you’ll recall from a few paragraphs back, is that LARGE scale is required here. If one person bought a super fancy new fridge, the utility would see no change in consumption. But if EVERYONE does it, or at least a critical mass, then you see the world change.
What does that change look like?
Well remember that 771 megawatts? That’s about the equivalent of what a normal coal-powered plant can produce. Through efficiency savings, CPS is readying to shut down a little more than that — 900 MW, exactly – of coal generation by 2018.
That’s a big deal. It saves power, money, and greenhouse gas emissions. The only people who won’t be happy with that arrangement? The big-hearted people of the coal industry. But we have a feeling that somehow, they’ll manage.