Electrical Industry Groups Join to Push for Transformer Efficiency

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff March 19, 2007

The nation’s investor—and municipally owned electric utilities—have joined with environmental and energy-efficiency organizations to recommend significantly higher efficiency standards for the estimated 41 million distribution transformers now serving the electricity system, according to a February release from the Edison Electric Institute .

Once in place following a gradual phase-in, the transformers are expected to save 26 billion kilowatt-hours annually, or roughly equivalent to the electricity used by 2.3 million U.S. households in 2005. That will in turn reduce annual emissions from electric power plants by 15 million metric tons, about equal to the average annual emissions of 2.7 million automobiles.

The proposal for higher efficiency standards marks the first-ever agreement on appliance standards from America’s investor-owned and public-power electric utilities and major energy efficiency and environmental groups. The recommendations were made jointly to the U.S. Dept. of Energy by the Edison Electric Institute and the American Public Power Association, representing the utilities, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Alliance to Save Energy, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

The announcement was made during the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ (NARUC) Annual Winter Committee Meetings. The agreement comes at a time when DOE is evaluating the efficiency of liquid-filled transformers, the metal boxes or cylinders found on utility poles across the United States that serve the crucial function of reducing voltage to the levels needed to provide electricity to homes and businesses.

In 2006, DOE proposed new efficiency standards for these transformers, but concerned efficiency and environmental groups believed those standards did not take full advantage of current technology. The result was an unprecedented collaboration with the utility groups that led to the recommendation to the DOE announced today. The Department is expected to issue its final decision on transformer efficiency by this September. Representatives of these groups praised the collaborative effort and the strong message it sends about the importance of energy efficiency in all phases of the electricity production and delivery cycle.