Even with renewable energy costs plummeting, energy efficiency is still the least expensive source of energy services in the United States.
That’s the conclusion the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy reaches in a recent commentary, responding to a renewables cost assessment by the financial advisory firm Lazard.
Although costs vary by region, “ACEEE research published this summer shows that energy efficiency programs cost utilities, on average, about 3.1 cents per kilowatt-hour nationally,” writes ACEEE Senior Director for Policy Maggie Molina. “The average cost of efficiency to utilities is still generally less than that of wind or utility-scale solar. And overall, energy efficiency and clean energy continue to come in at a lower cost per kilowatt hour than more traditional resources.”
A cost chart accompanying Molina’s post shows efficiency with the lowest average cost, followed by wind, utility-scale photovoltaics, combined cycle natural gas, coal, and community solar PVs. Nuclear electricity shows up as the most expensive option.
On top of the cost savings in ACEEE’s analysis, “efficiency also delivers a host of other benefits,” Molina writes. “It improves electricity grid reliability and resilience, can target savings where and when needed the most, creates jobs, spurs other economic development, reduces customer utility bills, makes homes and buildings more comfortable, and reduces harmful pollution.” She adds that U.S. energy efficiency investments since 1990 “have helped us avoid building the equivalent of 313 large power plants and have delivered cumulative savings of nearly US$790 billion to customers nationwide.”