A recent op-ed in the New York Times serves as a reminder that energy efficiency is not only one of the most powerful resources we have for meeting energy and environmental goals, it is also a rare source of bipartisan agreement.
Agreed: Energy efficiency works
Citing a poll by the Conservative Energy Network shortly after the November 2016 election, the writer noted that the majority of voters saw policies supporting energy efficiency as important. This is true despite the fact that energy efficiency itself is largely invisible, with economic impacts diffused throughout the economy. Imagine how enthusiastic Americans would be if they realized that more than 2.2 million people spend some or all of their work hours on energy-efficient technologies and services. That is more than the 1.9 million who work to produce electricity (solar, wind, nuclear), coal, oil and gas.
In addition to providing jobs, energy efficiency protects them by helping industries stay economically viable. Federal agencies develop efficiency standards for household appliances and work with American manufacturers to improve productivity. They provide testing and expertise to develop local and state building-efficiency codes for homes and commercial buildings.
Innovative, federally run efficiency programs boast a decades-long record of economic and environmental success across the nation, dating back at least 30 years. Energy Star is a shining example of a public-private partnership that saves American consumers and businesses billions of dollars per year. About three-quarters of U.S. households recognize the Energy Star label as way to control their energy costs while reducing power plant pollution.
The big picture tells an even more important story. The economy has grown by almost 150 percent since 1980 with a corresponding increase in energy consumption of about 20 quadrillion British thermal units. Over that same period, energy efficiency delivered more than 50 quads worth of energy services, far outpacing all other energy sources combined.
Waste still hurting economy
In spite of such impressive gains, however, energy waste still costs American businesses and households billions of dollars every year. In commercial buildings alone, where annual electricity costs are roughly $190 billion, about a third of this energy goes to waste, according to the Department of Energy. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy ranks the United States eighth among the top 23 energy-consuming nations in efficiency.
Emerging technologies and population growth are putting demands on our electricity grids that utilities of a generation ago never imagined. Knowing what is at stake, power providers are investing $7.5 billion annually in cost-effective electricity and natural gas efficiency programs.
The electricity industry can continue to build on the success that began when President Ronald Reagan signed the first legislation authorizing federal efficiency standards. Incorporate tools and strategies from federal energy-efficiency programs into you load management programs. Let your customers know about federal resources that might help them use less electricity. When we harness the power of the cheapest kilowatt—the one that is never used—everyone wins.
Source: New York Times, 11/7/17