States Embrace Energy Efficiency

ENERGY efficiency programmes offer relatively inexpensive, easy fixes resulting in reduced costs and emissions leading to many States across the U.S. grabbing what has been labelled "low-hanging fruit".

Many American states appreciate the need for energy efficiency and are pushing ahead, full-steam, with energy-savings targets. Together, these states will help the United States reduce emissions in a significant way.

26 of America’s 50 states either have passed or introduced legislation requiring utilities to reduce state energy consumption by a certain percentage annually, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ( ACEEE ), a nonprofit group. That’s up from just a handful a few years ago.

The Pacific island state of Hawaii, for example, has passed a law to use energy conservation measures to reduce statewide electricity sales by 40 percent by 2030. Others use their targets to offset an expected future growth in energy consumption. A new Texas law says that energy efficiency programmes in that Southwestern state must reduce such growth by 25 percent by 2012, and by 30 percent by 2013.

As a result, energy companies doubled their budgets between 2007 and 2009 for programmes aimed at helping consumers retrofit buildings and invest in more efficient technology, equipment and appliances. The trend continued in 2010, when utility budgets for such programmes grew another 25 percent, said Michael Sciortino, an ACEEE research assistant.

“It’s a clean, fast and cheap way of reducing energy waste and putting money back into consumers’ pockets,” he said. “It’s a real economic growth strategy, and it fulfills so many different objectives.”

Generation of electricity accounts for about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. That means even a relatively small drop in electricity consumption has an immediate effect, not just on companies and organisations budgets, but also on the environment.

U.S. President Barack Obama has told the international community that U.S. emissions should be reduced by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2017. This will require new and cleaner energy sources, along with a focused effort to reduce consumption of oil and coal.

States use a mix of incentives and disincentives to prod power companies to help their customers use less energy. Historically, power companies would make more money when they sold more energy. Many states are now revising payment schemes for the utilities they regulate to instead reward them for being good energy stewards.

“States are basically saying, ‘We should get ahead of the curve here and give utilities, customers and the private sector a signal that energy efficiency is something that we’re going to have a long-term investment in,’” Sciortino said.

Picture by SwedishCarina

Wednesday 16th February 2011

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