We have already covered the benefits of wind, solar, geothermal and electric cars in this blog space. But perhaps the most effective and inexpensive method to reducing our climate impacts is actually the simplest: improving energy efficiency standards. By making products and buildings that consume less energy, we can help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases needed to meet our energy needs. Energy efficiency improvements are particularly important because they have been proven to reduce energy demand while also saving the consumer money.
A recent analysis from Platts indicated that simply changing to more energy efficient air conditioners throughout the country could save $2.5 billion in energy costs annually and preclude the need for seven new mid-size power plants. The implementation of LEED certification for buildings has also saved billions in energy costs while also allowing property owners to charge more to rent space in these buildings. But almost all tenants end up spending less money renting these buildings because of decreased electric and water bills. Multiple studies have shown that these efficiency technologies end up paying for themselves rather quickly, and people are beginning to realize the benefits.
Even the Republican-controlled House recently passed legislation to improve standards for water heaters, refrigerators and air conditioners. The measure was sponsored by two Republicans and had backing from major industry institutions. Most of the support can be attributed to the demonstrated ability of energy efficiency measures to save money.
Energy Secretary Steve Chu has long been a proponent of energy efficiency measures and has helped bring the issue to the forefront of energy policy. Instituting these low cost changes can help save billions of dollars in the long-term budget picture.
Unsurprisingly, there is hope that a large-scale energy efficiency bill can be agreed upon during the next Congress. A prominent GOP House Energy and Commerce aide recently said that committee members are hoping to work with the Senate to pass “sweeping” new policies to help cut energy use and costs. Recent energy proposals from the House that involved rolling back air pollution rules are no longer being discussed and a more bipartisan effort should be expected in the new Congress. The agreement will likely be based on the Shaheen-Portman Bill, a measure co-sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Shaheen (D- New Hampshire) and Rep. Rob Portman (R- Ohio). Rep. Shaheen hopes that the key provisions of the bill, including reduced energy use at federal buildings and improved building code standards, will remain intact in the new legislation.
The Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2012 would be a perfect complement to new energy efficiency legislation. It would reinforce energy efficiency standards while also making sure that a greater portion of the energy that we do use comes from renewable sources. By tackling the climate problem from both the supply and demand sides, the United States can become a leader in renewable energy solutions, create jobs and cut energy costs from future budgets.