Working with the Market

Accelerating development and market adoption of energy-efficient products

For twenty-eight years, the alliance has collaborated with manufacturers to speed the development of products with greater energy-saving potential.

Who is the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA)?
NEEA, or the alliance, was founded in 1996 and is funded by more than 140 utilities across four Northwest states: Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Through the alliance, the region is advancing emerging technology innovation to increase availability of energy-efficient products and services through a coordinated, market-based approach to efficiency programs.

A commitment to emerging technologies 
Working in collaboration with the market, the alliance manages a portfolio of new efficiency opportunity projects, strategically identifying those with potential to deliver significant long-term energy savings. A primary focus is to help meet future energy needs by filling the energy efficiency pipeline with new products, services, practices and approaches.

Once technologies are identified and prioritized, the alliance works to translate the technologies into a product or measure that can be evaluated for energy savings, tracked in the market, and is useful in meeting the region’s goals. Product management involves defining the product, considering the product’s value, based on opportunities and market barriers, developing and evaluating test methods, collaborating on performance specifications, testing commercially available products, planning for product evolution and collaborating with manufacturers to adjust products to improve their efficiency.

An example of this work is Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWHs). NEEA has developed close relationships with the major water heater manufacturers and with manufacturers of residential heat pumps, and staff is actively working with these manufacturers to accelerate the commercialization of gas heat pump water heaters and extended range (cold climate) heat pumps.  HPWHs already include sensors, controls and connectivity options as part of the standard feature set for these products. Adding capability to be grid-enabled is primarily a matter of configuring the software and connectivity of the product. However, manufacturers need to know what protocols to design to before they are willing to make the investment to change their manufacturing processes. The alliance can leverage its strong position with manufacturers ensure all HPWHs have specific product capabilities that reflect a regional consensus on technical requirements that the industry can adopt, resulting in economies of scale and further reductions in the incremental cost of this capability. And, NEEA’s dual-fuel approach generates greater leverage with manufacturers and others in the supply chain that market both gas and electric products.

Based on NEEA's work in this market, the U.S. DOE published a new federal efficiency standard for consumer water heaters in April 2024. The new federal standard will transition the majority of electric storage water heaters to heat pump technology and make important incremental steps to improve gas storage water heater efficiency. According to the U.S. DOE, “The energy savings from this final rule over 30 years of shipments is 17.6 quadrillion British thermal units—the largest savings ever from a single DOE efficiency standard, representing more than the energy use of the entire U.S. residential building sector in a single year.”1

The passage of the federal water heating standard represents a major milestone in alliance Market Transformation efforts and is a win for all Northwest gas and electric customers. It is a direct result of nearly 20 years of leadership by the alliance, its market partners, and many stakeholders across the country. For example, the U.S. DOE cites NEEA’s Advanced Water Heating Specification (AWHS) as reference material for its final rule. Originally developed by NEEA in 2009 to ensure cold-climate performance, NEEA has continued to iterate and improve the AWHS to advance higher performing electric and gas heat pump water heaters.

Learn more about how NEEA has worked to transform the water heating market in this Success Story.

Why work with the alliance?

Get support in developing new product lines and revenue streams through accelerated development, product specifications, lab/field testing and regional market insights. NEEA acts as neutral/independent voice that can influence supply chain to increase product sales and remove market barriers.