Early efficiency programs encouraged consumers to purchase more efficient products, but what if the products available were not especially efficient? In the early 1990s, a group of utilities, started by Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison, along with the US EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council, recognized that there was a gap between the high energy use needed to power typical refrigerators and the level of performance that was potentially available with more efficient technology. What would motivate manufacturers to supply the market with super efficient refrigerators?
Other program administrators signed on: Bonneville Power Administration, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Long Island Lighting Company, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and the Washington State Energy Office. Together, they engaged in extensive brainstorming before eventually deciding on a winner-take-all manufacturer competition to design a market-ready refrigerator that would be 25 to 50 percent more efficient than the current market average. The winning plan also had to show that the company was able to manufacture the product, distribute it, and track its sales.
In turn, the winning refrigerator would be promoted by efficiency programs. By the time the program was underway, a total of 24 utilities had joined in, making the prize worth $30 million, plus a broad swath of the market available in which to promote the winning product.
In 1994, over 7,000 MWh were saved through the purchase of new refrigerators. While Whirlpool won that first contest, other manufacturers recognized the predictable and coordinated support from program administrators and quickly featured efficiency in order to compete in the market. SERP also showed that utilities, working together, could advance efficiency. Additional market opportunities could reap similar benefits through the sister organization of SERP, the Consortium for Energy Efficiency.
CEE seeks opportunities to create market infrastructure supporting efficiency.
The Consortium for Energy Efficiency paralleled the success of SERP by institutionalizing a forum for program administrators that results in innovative market interventions and acceleration of efficient product and service uptake.