Northwest public utilities saved more energy last year than ever before, freeing up enough electricity to power 65,700 more homes by not using it in the first place. The Bonneville Power Administration is building on that success by dedicating $35 million this year to public utility energy efficiency programs that was originally scheduled to be delivered in the coming years.

The funding will flow to BPA’s partner utilities for energy efficient projects and technologies that range from retrofitting neighborhood grocery store shelves with power-saving LED lighting to upgrading old and inefficient irrigation pumps. BPA recognizes energy efficiency as the cleanest and most affordable source of new electricity, which also saves power customers money. Last year’s record achievement, for example, reduced Northwest power bills by more than $57 million. More rapidly funding these efforts now will be less expensive than it would be in the future, which will produce savings for BPA and its customers.

Last year’s savings of nearly 90 average megawatts was the most ever by BPA’s utility customers, beating BPA’s goal for the year of 80 aMW at less cost than expected. It came as the Northwest already leads the nation in energy efficiency, supplying 12 percent of its electricity needs in 2009 through energy savings compared to just 1 percent for the United States overall. This year, the accelerated funding will assist BPA’s utility customers to exceed the agency’s current 99 aMW target.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Sixth Power Plan adopted last year calls for meeting 85 percent of the region’s new demand for electricity over the next 20 years with energy efficiency. The aggressive goals require a rapid ramp up. BPA and its partners must save nearly twice as much energy over this five year period as they did in the previous five years.

BPA-sponsored programs enact simple changes that make saving energy easy. For example:

  • PUD No. 1 of Clallam County continued its residential conservation programs that have saved customers $114,555 by performing duct sealing in 500 homes and by installing ductless heat pumps in 300 homes.
  • Peninsula Light Co. helped the Peninsula School District in Gig Harbor, Washington, install high efficiency T8 lighting throughout its facilities. The project increased the quality of lighting, reduced maintenance costs and saved $127, 283 in electricity for the district.

Emission-free energy protects the Northwest environment by reducing the need for new thermal power plants, minimizing greenhouse gas production. Efficiency programs improve the Northwest economy by creating jobs for those performing upgrades.