I am currently an intern with Seattle City Light’s Conservation Resource Division. A bit of background….SCL is a municipally owned power supplier that supplies the City of Seattle and some of its surrounding suburbs with power. SCL has a monopoly on power supply in the region, and has since the early 1900s. Renewable energy and conservation are the only source of power for SCL and will not invest in any new generation sources. This has been SCL’s position since the 1970s. The Conservation Resource Division (CRD) deals specifically with meeting conservation targets and goals that are set internally and by I-937. I-937, passed in 2006, requires utilities to identify achievable, cost-effective conservation potential over a 10-year period. Utilities must update those assessments at least every two years.
Working in CRD, I have seen first hand how innovations have (started) to create a carbon-efficient economy. CRD works with developers, contractors, distributors, businesses, and product developers to make SCL customers more efficient. Innovations come from the private sector (technologies) and the public sector (mainly in the form of programs, rebates, and incentives). Advancement in solar technologies are perhaps a leading example. This year, CRD claimed kWH savings in its portfolio for the first time.
Another product innovation that has transformed the market is the LED light bulb. The change has been noticeable in the past 3 years has the technology has changed and improved and prices have dropped. In a recent analysis that I did for CRD based on a representative sample, LEDs now make up an estimated 48 percent of all of the kWh savings from lighting measures claimed by CRD in 2013. In some programs (that did mainly medium commercial lighting retrofits), 90 percent of the kWh savings claimed were from LED measures.
This phenomenon helps CRD meet conservation targets. It is the product of CRD’s 30+ years of work in the energy efficiency field, and, perhaps most importantly, advancement in lighting technologies. LEDs are becoming much more accessible, not as “scary,” and not as expensive. LEDs are by no means the answer to all the problems, and SCL has a comparatively low-carbon grid. But it illustrates a positive development in carbon efficiency, and also how quickly it can infiltrate the market place, as long as there is innovation, progress, incentives, and options.