Energy efficiency prospects: What to watch

Events unfolding in two U.S. Northeast states -- New York and Massachusetts -- signal increased business opportunity for energy efficiency companies, green architects, lighting contractors, smart grid innovators and others in the business of saving energy.

First, the energy efficiency world should keep an eye on debate over the possible shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York.

New York regulators recently tasked Consolidated Edison, New York City’s utility, with figuring out how to make up for the loss of the 2,040 MW Indian Point. Federal licenses for the plant expire by the end of 2015. And while the plant seeks relicensing, it faces some potent opposition. So the state wants to be prepared.

The back-up plan, drafted by Con Edison with the New York Power Authority, focuses largely on power plants and other energy infrastructure. But it also calls for 100 MW of energy efficiency that the utility would seek in addition to programs it already has underway.

The utility envisions much of the 100 MW of peak demand reduction coming from large buildings through LED lighting, advanced energy control systems, steam air conditioning,  advanced heating, ventilation and cooling, and energy storage systems.

Time is short -- if Indian Point does close in 2015 New York needs to start ramping up its energy efficiency backup now, says Con Edison. To that end, the utility has asked the New York Public Service Commission to approve $300 million for the efficiency program in April.

Given the time constraint, it’s also important to create an incentive package “that rapidly encourages interest and participation by customers,” Con Edison said. Specifically, Con Ed wants to see customers receive payback in 12 months or less for the energy efficiency investments.

Next page:  Beyond Con Ed