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Energy Efficiency and Conservation

Pursuant to Wisconsin Statutes § 1.12(2), “a state agency or local governmental unit shall investigate and consider the maximum conservation of energy resources as an important factor when making any major decision that would significantly affect energy usage.”  Under Wis. Stat. § 1.12(3)(a), it is also the goal of the state “to reduce the ratio of energy consumption to economic activity in the state.”  The Commission is involved in many areas relating to energy efficiency and conservation, including overseeing the statewide energy efficiency program known as Focus on Energy and implementing legislative and other policy initiatives designed to reduce energy consumption and conserve electric, natural gas and water resources. 

Electric energy efficiency is a reduction in electric energy use, the use of the minimum amount of electricity necessary to accomplish a task, or the shifting of electric use away from periods of high demand. The most common methods of improving energy efficiency are:

  • conservation
  • load management
  • fuel switching
  • customer-owned renewable resource technologies

Most customers are familiar with conservation techniques such as turning off lights when leaving a room or turning down furnace thermostats at night. Conservation also includes installing measures that allow the same task to be accomplished with a lesser amount of energy. For example, it takes less heat and air conditioning to stay warm or cool in a properly insulated home than in an un-insulated one. Another example is using compact fluorescent light (CFLs) bulbs rather than incandescent bulbs. CFLs can provide the same amount of light as incandescent light bulbs but only use one quarter the energy.

Load management shifts energy use away from periods when demands are the highest. Daily demand for energy reaches its highest point on hot summer weekdays, when air cooling systems in homes and at commercial and industrial facilities. Examples of major forms of load management are: air conditioner control or cycling; interruptible industrial service; and cool storage systems. In load management programs, customers generally receive a bill credit, a lower rate, or some other kind of incentive to participate.

Fuel substitution replaces electricity with a more efficient, cheaper source of fuel (generally natural gas) for certain uses of electricity. Fuel substitution reduces use of electricity and can usually reduce total energy use. For instance, natural gas water heaters generally use less total energy than their electric counterparts.

Customer-owned renewable resources replace electricity use with small-scale customer-sited, renewable resource technologies. These technologies reduce use of fossil energy and may also reduce peak demand for electricity. Examples of major types of customer-owned renewable resources are: solar electric, which converts sunlight to electricity; day lighting uses building design to reduce use of electric lights and air conditioning; solar water heaters; wind; wood or biomass.

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