Duke's save-a-watt proposal will lead to energy efficiency

From Keith Trent, Duke Energy's chief strategy, policy and regulatory officer:

Observer community columnist Lisa Zerkle again misrepresented Duke Energy's proposed save-a-watt energy efficiency program in her Sept. 24 column, just as she did in a July column.

Here are the facts about Duke Energy's proposal:

Save-a-watt is an unprecedented program that will significantly reduce electricity consumption among the company's 1.8 million N.C. customers.

The plan is alive and well, and currently under consideration by the N.C. Utilities Commission. A ruling is possible this fall.

The plan includes an array of energy efficiency programs – for homes, businesses and industrial facilities – that will help customers achieve their top objective: saving money on electric bills.

Save-a-watt turns the traditional utility business model on its head. Rather than being rewarded to sell more electricity, Duke Energy will be rewarded to promote energy efficiency. That, in turn, will lower customers' bills and reduce the need to build new power plants.

Under save-a-watt, Duke Energy will be motivated to deliver as much cost-effective energy efficiency as possible. The company will encourage customers to buy less of its traditional product – electricity. That sounds odd, but the company will replace lost sales with new revenue linked to the value delivered to customers through energy efficiency. The winners: customers and shareholders.

Three highly regarded national energy efficiency organizations have endorsed Duke Energy's save-a-watt plan.

NC SAVE$ is a proposed alternative program that would be administered by a costly, third-party bureaucracy endorsed by columnist Zerkle.

NC SAVE$ would be severely limited in the scope of its energy efficiency projects because its budget would be fixed. Duke Energy's program, by contrast, is unlimited in terms of the electricity savings it can deliver to customers.

The new organization that would administer NC SAVE$ most likely would be rewarded just for spending money; third-party administrators often get paid even if they deliver no results. Under Duke Energy's plan, by contrast, the company will only get paid if it reduces customers' electricity demand.

Energy efficiency requires serious commitment. Duke Energy is eager to implement its save-a-watt plan in North Carolina, starting in 2009. The company's goal is to meet 12 percent of its customers' electricity demand through energy efficiency by 2030.