Georgia is among the roughly half of states that have not established an Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS). In the early 1990s, Georgia approved an Integrated Resource Planning law, and in 2008 established its commitment to improving energy efficiency and resource planning within government agencies and facilities.
At the regional level, approximately 20 utility companies provide rebate or other incentive programs for energy efficiency measures, including Central Georgia, Georgia Power, and Jackson EMC. Additionally, Georgia’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing option, designates special improvement districts within which commercial, residential, educational, and public buildings are eligible for energy efficiency financing.
Georgia is unusual in that only one of its electric utilities, Georgia Power, is regulated by the state’s regulatory agency, The Georgia Public Services Commission (GPSC). Georgia Power is an investor-owned, tax-paying public utility that serves about 2.4 million customers in 155 of Georgia’s 159 counties [Source]. Georgia’s regulations permit some retail competition for Georgia Power by granting commercial and manufacturing customers limited choice in transferring electric suppliers.
Statewide EERS: No.
Primary Energy Sources: 34% natural gas; 33% coal; 27% nuclear; 6% renewable [Source].
Energy Efficiency Approach: Spending on energy efficiency has been relatively low compared to other states. Initiatives have been focused almost exclusively on state and municipal buildings and agencies. No statewide incentives are offered for residential or commercial organizations, though some utilities voluntarily offer programs to customers [Source].
Municipalities with Local Initiatives: None, though Georgia Power, cooperative utilities, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and some other utilities offer initiatives to their customers.
A heavily forested state, Georgia is third in the nation for energy production from biomass. It is also eighth in the nation for total sales of electricity.
In the early 1990s, Georgia approved an Integrated Resource Planning law that requires regulated electric utilities to file IRPs with the GPSC every three years. Eligible utilities may recover costs for commission-approved demand-side management programs, plus a reward sum to encourage development of these programs.
Georgia Power, the only eligible utility in the state, offers a variety of commercial rebate programs for installation of energy efficient lighting, heating, cooling, controls, and other improvements.
In 2008, Senate Bill 130 established energy efficiency goals for new state building projects. The Senate Bill requires most new buildings to exceed the efficiency standards of ASHRAE 90.1.2004 by 30%, and requires at least 10% of building materials to be sourced within the state. In the same year, the Governor created a policy via executive order to require increased energy efficiency by state government entities.
In November 2012, Georgia Power gained approval from the GPSC for a solar power initiative that called for the purchase of 210 MW of solar capacity in 2014. The initiative permits Georgia Power customers to sell distributed solar generation back to Georgia Power, and provides for solar developers to engage in utility-scale RFPs for large solar arrays. In 2013, the GPSC approved an additional 525 MW of solar capacity and another 100 MW are planned in 2015.
The Governor’s Energy Challenge 2020 urges agencies and departments to reduce energy consumption by 15% over 2007, by the year 2020. Funding for retrofits is provided in part by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, which is also charged with implementing the program. Programs apply to state entities as well as local governments. Schools, businesses, and individuals are also welcomed and encouraged to participate.
Georgia Power offers a variety of rebate programs to residential and commercial organizations for energy efficiency updates and improvements. Even though Georgia Power offers a Small Business program, it is fairly small in scope. With the right partner, it could be easily scaled to achieve even more energy savings.
Georgia has only six primary electric utilities, but a network of cooperatives serves a significant percentage of the state’s customers. The Georgia Electric Membership Corporation’s cooperatives offer rebates for some installations, and the TVA also partners with utilities to offer audits and incentives for residential and business customers.
While Georgia Power serves most of Georgia, the state does have some limited retail competition. Many cooperative utilities, as well as the TVA, offer energy efficiency programs for their customers in the areas they serve.
For instance, Flint Energy (serving 17 central Georgia counties) offers residential customers favorable loan terms for purchasing energy efficient appliances, furnaces, water heaters, heating and cooling, weatherizing, windows, siding, roofs, and a variety of other improvements.
Habersham EMC, TVA Partner Utilities, Central Georgia EMC, Coweta-Fayette EMC, and many others offer similar loan programs and rebates to residential customers for upgraded energy efficiency.
Some of the biggest issues facing energy efficiency programs are that budgets aren’t correctly optimized, utility and administrator goals are misaligned, and small businesses aren’t fully engaged. However, with just a few tweaks to the standard efficiency programs, utilities can maximize customer incentives, increase participation rates, and raise customer satisfaction levels.
Here are four ways utility companies can revolutionize their small business programs to make them a huge success:
Unfortunately, many existing models don’t correctly optimize the program budget. In some programs across the country, over 40% of the budget is spent on administrator fees instead of being distributed to small businesses in the form of incentives. These costs truly limit the potential success of programs, but there is an easy solution.
Choosing the right energy partner can eliminate administrative costs and provide more incentives to be returned to the end customer. This allows the utility to provide more customer measure options, leading to happier and more involved customers.
Quite often there is a disconnect between the utility and the program administrator. In the typical program administrator model, their payment is not dependent on the utility reaching its goals, so they aren’t as invested in program success as an administrator who only gets paid on results.
That is where Lime’s Pay-For-Performance model comes into play. In our model, there is no administrative payment for non-performance. Lime is only paid when jobs are completed and KWh savings are realized, making our success 100% reliant on the utility achieving savings.
The small business sector has historically been a missed opportunity for utilities. Small businesses often pay into Demand-Side Management (DSM) programs through a rate tariff; however, they don’t usually receive the same benefits that large commercial and industrial customers do. Instead of returning the money collected under DSM rate riders to the small business customer, the funds often go towards administrative fees and other programs. By correctly implementing a robust small business energy efficiency program, a utility can use these funds to bolster the backbone of the U.S. economy â€“ the local small business.
In order for a utility’s program to be successful, it needs to consistently hit energy efficiency goals. The best way to do this is by increasing participation from small businesses. By transitioning from the â€œtrade allyâ€ model to an integrated model with high-touch services, you’ll see an increase in customer engagement, participation rate and customer satisfaction. This switch will help your utility’s program hit, and surpass, energy efficiency goals.
According to prognosticators at Electric Light & Power, 2015 will be â€œall about energy.â€ We agree.
Pressure from all sidesâ€”the market, regulators, and public sentimentâ€”will continue to push utilities to expand energy efficiency and the use of alternative resources. With much of the residential and large commercial sector tapped for energy efficiency, focus will turn toward addressing the underserved small business market.
Utilities that embrace innovation in marketing, product delivery, and customer service will continue to post gains and ultimately serve as a model for the rest of the nation.
For more information about energy efficiency trends and initiatives in Georgia, bookmark these valuable resources.