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WIREs Energy Environ.
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A review of sustainable energy utility and energy service utility concepts and applications: realizing ecological and social sustainability with a community utility

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Strategies that guided development throughout the 20th century relied heavily on economic optimality as a chief guiding principle in the design of energy, technology, markets, and policy. A review of the record of performance of this decision‐making process is followed by a review of proposals to redefine energy progress on sustainability principles. An emerging 21st sustainability paradigm is described which relies on commons‐based economics and long‐term ecological viability. An existing operational expression of the new paradigm—the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU)—is analyzed as a practical means to arrive at the New Economics and New Policy which might guide the sector. It is compared to the Energy Service Utility and its applications in order to gauge the transformative potential of the SEU. WIREs Energy Environ 2016, 5:136–154. doi: 10.1002/wene.171 This article is categorized under: Energy Efficiency > Economics and Policy Energy and Development > Economics and Policy Energy and Development > Systems and Infrastructure
(a)–(d) A hypothetical depiction of optimality's economic pursuit contrasted with the New Economics of Ecological Sustainability. Source: Adapted from Refs .
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Cumulative energy savings as a percent of sales: comparing investor‐owned utilities, energy service utilities, and the Delaware sustainable energy utility. Notes: The Delaware SEU data include a single application of the bond issue calculated over the lifetime of the bond (20 years), the application of the loan and rebate programs (7 years), the Solar REC auction, and Dover SUN Park program. Like Figure , the data for Efficiency Vermont, Energy Trust of Oregon, and the Reporting Utilities, are drafted from reported savings and sales. The Delaware SEU data, however, draw from a combination of reported savings and expected future savings. To calculate expected future savings against future sales in the state of Delaware, sales growth rates are based on 2001–2012 growth patterns. Notably, bond issue savings are drawn from contractually guaranteed savings.
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Overview of the 2011 Delaware SEU energy efficiency bond issue. Source: Ref .
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SEU monetization of energy savings. Source: Ref .
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Cumulative energy savings as a percent of sales: comparing U.S. investor‐owned energy utilities and energy service utilities (Efficiency Vermont and Energy Trust of Oregon). Notes: Energy savings for Efficiency Vermont and Energy Trust of Oregon are extracted from their annual reports (see, e.g., the most recent reports for Efficiency Vermont and Energy Trust of Oregon) for the 2001–2012 period. Energy sales data are obtained from EIA Form 861 (electricity) and Form 176 (natural gas). The ‘reporting utilities’ are the conventional utilities that have communicated energy savings to the EIA, but data are restricted to electricity savings and sales. However, the essential message of Figure , that the energy services utilities significantly outperform the conventional utilities, remains unchanged when the savings profile for both efficiency utilities is also restricted to electricity sales and savings.
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