Research Shows Customer Action Key to Reaching Utility Decarbonization Goals

New Study from The Brattle Group and Oracle Shows Utility Customer Action Can Be Twice as Impactful as Current Clean Energy Supply Policies in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

 In the race to meet aggressive decarbonization and net-zero carbon goals and regulations, a new study shows that utilities cannot afford to just focus on clean energy supply investments. The report, by The Brattle Group and Oracle Utilities, found that by 2040 actions by utility customers can reduce nearly two times more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the residential and light-duty vehicle sectors than would result from current policies to promote investments in clean energy supply alone. By adopting new technologies and energy efficiency to reduce energy consumption, residential utility customers can account for 534 metric tons of avoided carbon dioxide by 2040, the equivalent of retiring more than half (135) of the United States’ coal plants.

“The prevailing belief is that clean energy supply investments need to be the primary focus of decarbonization efforts. And while those investments are essential, this research clearly shows that utilities can’t overlook the power of their customers in delivering needed change,” said Dr. Ahmad Faruqui, a Principal at The Brattle Group. “The aggregate impact of individual utility customer actions on decarbonization is not only profound – but also one of the fastest and cost-effective ways for utilities to make progress toward their climate change goals. Customer-side decarbonization policies will also bring with them the benefits of enhanced customer engagement and improved customer satisfaction with utilities.”

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“APS recognizes the unlimited potential in partnering with customers. Our nationally recognized voluntary energy conservation programs, like APS Cool Rewards, are designed with our customers in mind and are one of the many tools we use to create a cleaner, more reliable smart grid for Arizona,” said Kerri Carnes, Manager of Customer Technology at Arizona Public Service Co. (APS). “By increasing access to the latest energy-saving technology and designing unique incentives that benefit participating customers, we’re building on our already 50% clean energy mix, accelerating our progress towards our bold commitment to power our state with 100% clean, carbon-free energy by 2050 and doing our part in the global effort to protect the environment.”

Conducted in early 2021, the study looked to quantify the GHG reduction impact customers can have by adopting new technologies and behaviors over the next 10-20 years. Brattle’s analytical models estimated the load impact of multiple customer actions, including participating in gas and electricity efficiency programs, buying an electric vehicle, installing behind-the-meter solar, or electrifying their water and space heating. Results were calculated using regional hourly grid emissions factors, and they quantify the aggregate impact of ambitious and achievable adoption of new GHG-reducing technologies and behaviors(Oracle ).

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