Seeking to intensify the nation's efforts to become more energy-efficient, the Edison Electric Institute's Board of Directors has approved creation of an Institute for Electric Efficiency. The Institute is intended to act as a forum to promote best energy efficiency practices among electric utilities, to develop a resource base of regulatory models, and to convene conferences and seminars to promote the sharing of information, ideas and experiences in energy efficiency in the power sector.

The Board's action comes at a time when utilities, customers and policymakers across the country are studying new approaches to increase end-use electricity efficiency as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and partially offsetting the need for new power plants. As the U.S. population continues to grow and our economy becomes ever more dependent on electricity, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects electricity demand to surge 40 percent by 2030 nationwide, with increases in some regions expected to be even higher.

"We believe the new Institute will serve as an excellent platform for promoting more energy efficiency in the power sector," said Jeffry Sterba, EEI's chairman, and president, CEO and chairman, PNM Resources, Albuquerque, New Mexico. "The Institute will help us focus our efforts and significantly increase our efforts to help customers maximize efficiency in their use of electricity."

In particular, energy efficiency is viewed as a potent weapon against climate change, Sterba said. An emissions-free and low-cost alternative, it can help the nation reduce its carbon emissions, increase productivity and also generate new jobs in the quickly growing "clean tech" sector.

Public education on energy efficiency also will be a component of the new Institute. "We need to educate and empower customers to better manage their own energy use," he said. "In the past year, our country has taken significant strides in building awareness about household and business energy use and terms like 'carbon footprint' are now part of everyday language. The new Institute will help accelerate that trajectory."

The new Institute will work closely with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), which is focused on how utilities and their customers can best use technology to increase their efficient use of electricity.

The EEI Board also expressed the hope that the nation's government-owned and cooperatively owned electric utilities will join the Institute's programs and, ultimately, that the Institute could serve as a worldwide model with the U.S. leading the way on electric energy efficiency, Sterba said, and engage the best experts outside our industry as advisors.