NEEA nails new data on home energy use

Jeff Harris, NEEA's director of emerging technology, said the new data will help energy planners make big decisions.
Courtesy NEEA

Jeff Harris, NEEA's director of emerging technology, said the new data will help energy planners make big decisions. 

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, known as NEEA, last week announced the first results of a comprehensive survey of home energy use in the Northwest, the first time such data has been collected in almost 30 years.

The Residential Building Stock Assessment is a comprehensive research study of energy consumption in more than 1,600 Northwest residential buildings. The data collected by the study will be used to plan for energy resources — determining whether or not new power plants are needed — as well as targeting energy efficiency programs where they can have the most impact.

"Now we have good, hard data on which to base those decisions," said Jeff Harris, director of emerging technology at NEEA. "We've been relying on much smaller surveys."

The study gives energy efficiency experts an insight into details such as how many homes still lack good insulation — a good chunk according the survey — and what the market opportunity is to provide those goods and services.

Harris said the last comprehensive study of this kind was done in the mid-1980s.

Households have changed since then.

For one thing, the sheer number of consumer electronics devices was surprising. The survey found an average of 2.3 televisions per household, most of them with cable boxes alongside, not to mention the gaming consoles found in a third of homes and the 90 percent of households that have at least one computer.

Those numbers prompt people like Harris to start thinking about ways to make it easier for consumers to power off those devices when they aren't using them and to prompt manufacturers to think about efficiency when they're making the devices in the first place. NEEA also runs campaigns, such as the one last year promoting efficient televisions, to educate consumers about efficient options.

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