Wednesday :: Dec 14, 2011

Energy Efficiency, the Clean Energy Option that Keeps on Giving

by Mary

Every year the ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) ranks the states on a broad scorecard for how they are doing in using energy efficiently. This year Massachusetts beat out the long-time top dog on energy efficiency, California, by using a majority of the funds from their Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) - also known as a Cap-and-Trade program for a number of the Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states - to promote energy efficient programs. This has not only put them at the top of the state rankings, it has created 3,800 green jobs.

So why is energy efficiency such a fantastic deal? Because the savings in energy we realize are multiplied through the years. I've written before that energy efficiency is the most important leg for a clean energy future:

Yet today, experts driving energy planning understand the problem is a demand-side problem: the reason we need so much energy is because we waste so much. This insight comes from recognizing that we aren't looking for energy as an end-product, but for the services we get from it: warm water for our showers, light for our homes, the ability to get to where we need to go.

Even better, by getting more out of the energy we use, we have more to invest elsewhere. Art Rosenfeld, winner of the Enrico Fermi award for his innovation and leadership regarding energy efficiency in California, says that through energy efficiency programs put in place in California between 1976 and 2004, California families saved over $1000 per year by not having to build new power plants.

Amory Lovins, founder of Rocky Mountain Institute, has been preaching the benefits of energy efficiency for decades and he says that if the United States used energy as efficiently as the top ten states did 4 years ago, we would eliminate our need for 62.5% of the coal powered energy produced today.

A big fallacy around energy conservation is that it has to be hard, expensive and, as former Vice President Dick Cheney said, dependent on someone's personal commitment to using less energy. But realistically, using energy efficiently comes from regulation-driven product designs that deliver more for less. In the 1970s, California set rigorous energy usage targets for refrigerators and the result is that since 1975, refrigerators are 75% more energy efficient than they used to be.

So what are the areas on which states are judged?

  1. Customer Energy Efficiency Programs
  2. Energy Efficiency Program Funding
  3. Energy Efficiency Resource Standards
  4. Alternative Business Models
  5. Reward Structures for Successful Energy Efficiency Programs
  6. Energy Efficiency as a Resource

You will note that states ranked at the top require utilities focus on energy efficiency before building new plants.

My state, Oregon, continues to hold a top spot in the list. How is your state doing?

Mary :: 11:06 PM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!