New England Can Reduce Its Oil Dependence Through Conservation and Renewable Resource Development

EMD-81-58: Published: Jun 11, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 11, 1981.

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About 80 percent of New England's energy needs are met by oil, primarily foreign imports. As a result, electric rates and heating bills in the area are among the highest in the Nation. The region is vulnerable to oil supply disruptions, and its economy is drained to pay for foreign oil. New England has made significant strides since the oil embargo in its continuing efforts to reduce oil consumption. It is now using about 12 percent less oil for heating and generating electricity than it did before the embargo due to increased use of nuclear power and conservation measures. The New England Power Pool has other actions planned to more than double present nuclear power generation and significantly increase the use of coal. New England must be prepared to take even more stringent measures if its dependence on uncertain and increasingly expensive supplies of oil is to be reduced.

Energy consultants employed by GAO concluded that substantial oil savings could be achieved by policies which emphasize conservation and renewable resources. They predicted that by the year 2000 alternative supplies of energy could reduce oil consumption for electricity generation by 49 percent and that increased conservation could reduce oil consumption by 57 million barrels for electricity generation and heating. The types of actions considered included appliance and lighting efficiency standards, electric space heat regulation, voltage regulation, passive solar energy requirements in new construction, increased use of wood, tidal power, and solar wastes. Further reductions of oil consumption would require a more effective regional effort by the Department of Energy (DOE), the New England States, utilities, and appropriate regulatory bodies. The State public utility commissions must play the primary role in working with the utilities to increase conservation and the use of renewable resources. State legislatures should consider laws to continually improve energy efficiency. Electric utility plans need to reflect the potential from conservation and alternative supplies. States need to assure that utilities' plans include potential conservation and alternative supply options. Public utilities commissions need to develop economic and regulatory incentives to motivate conservation and alternative energy supply options. Each commission needs to determine whether appropriate emphasis is being placed on conservation and renewable energy resources.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should determine that if sufficient progress is not being made, then it should request that the Congress consider stronger measures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should establish a responsibility center in the New England regional office to coordinate regional efforts to reduce oil consumption. This responsibility should include: (1) monitoring utility plans and State oversight of those plans and helping to assure that conservation and alternative supply options have been considered in utility forecasts; (2) working with State utilities commissions and regional utilities to identify the energy, regulatory, and economic policies that influence utility policies and determine possible changes which would better assure that all options are included in formulating those policies; (3) assessing utility forecasting methods and providing advice and input in power supply/demand alternatives; (4) preparing a plan for regulatory intervention to be used when DOE oversight of electric power planning, at State utility commission or utility company level, indicates that all options are not being given adequate consideration; and (5) providing technical assistance and other support, as necessary, to State regulatory commissions to help improve the quality of electric power planning.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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