There’s a new report out from the Center for American Progress and Energy Resource Management (EnergyRM) that takes a stab at listing the top states when it comes to policy leadership on energy efficiency. The big push by the report’s co-authors, who include the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is that the United States should treat the idea of energy efficiency as another potential source of power generation.
“Energy efficiency IS energy,” says Bill Campbell, the chair of Energy Resource Management and another report co-author.
The report is being released to help encourage the development of what Reid calls “compact” legislation to help drive energy efficiency efforts across the United States. Since other legislation intended to help American’s innovation in renewable energy keeps getting stalled by old-school political agendas and a lack of bipartisan support, Reid figures that focusing on initiatives that can produce results more quickly might be more fruitful.
Considering that the average time it takes to build a new power line is 19 years (19 years!), he probably has a point. That is the major, major challenge that the United States faces with respect to renewable energy: We can produce all of it we want, but if there’s no way to get it to people, what’s the point? We keep getting bogged down in procedure, policy and practices of the past.
So, what does the report say? Pointing to certain states as trailblazers, American Progress calls for a national effort to help retrofit homes, offices and industrial locations for energy efficiency. Over the next decade, such a program could help create 625,000 sustained full-time jobs, the authors figure. The cost savings? Up to $64 billion per year for U.S. ratepayers.
And that’s just for retrofitting 40 percent of the existing buildings in the United States.
From the executive summary:
“Investing in energy efficiency provides economic benefits in other ways as well. Increasingly, efficiency means state-of-the-art buildings, enhanced comfort, better health and improved economic value. Highly efficient ‘green’ buildings use less energy, attract higher rents, spend less time vacant, and command higher prices at the time of sale. Energy cost savings and well-designed financing structures also reduce net building operating costs permanently.”
According to the report, these states are pioneers in energy efficiency markets:
- New York
- North Carolina
- New Jersey
And these are the states with the most “high market potential for future energy efficiency development”:
- New Mexico
The report does a great job of outlining the specific elements that energy efficiency policies should include, such as guidelines for renewable energy usage and penalties for failing to meet energy efficiency guidelines.
I am personally a big proponent of renewable energy, but I know that the United States is handicapped by its successful past in this regard. It takes years to approve construction projects. Years to lay new powerline infrastructure. So, intuitively, I do believe that a focus on energy efficiency from a national perspective is a great first step that could have an enormous impact. We definitely need something of this magnitude to really kickstart our progress. We Americans are a cynical, skeptical lot by nature. Show us the money, and maybe we’ll starting believing more in the future of energy innovation — in the form of smart grid, electric vehicles, renewable energy, microgrids and so on.