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Energy Efficiency Investments Down, Interests Up

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A recent study shows U.S. energy efficiency investments are down nearly 20 percent from 2016 to 2018.  The Energy Efficiency Impact Report states plainly, that in order to take advantage of evolving opportunities, we must consider energy efficiency as the foundation of our path forward, and leverage its massive scale and versatility to prepare for tomorrow’s challenges.  One of today’s challenges is some believe efficiency programs are based on lackluster incremental change and that reducing greenhouse gas emissions carries no economical value.  Long-term goals don’t offer a quick fix or immediate results.  Whether the solutions are new tools to measure the benefits or a more robust energy retrofit, investment into energy efficiency is crucial. Robust or not, energy efficiency plans require dedication and funding. Despite an overall drop in investments, studies show an increase in participation.  A University of Michigan survey found that half of Michigan’s local governments have taken steps to improve energy efficiency which is more than double the 22 percent reported a decade ago.  According to research area specialist at the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the Ford School of Public Policy, Natalie Fitzpatrick, there’s more to come. She comments “Among those who have already taken steps on energy efficiency, 72 percent say they will take further actions in the next couple of years.”

On a small scale, Pennsylvania is offering grants (ranging from $2,000 - $50,000), loans and equity investments to qualifying applicants.  The Met-Ed/Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund will distribute nearly $200,000 in grants throughout the Pennsylvania in 2020.  The goal is to support projects and programs that use of clean energy technologies and energy efficiency. On a larger scale, the USDA announced $1.2 million in grants for energy efficiency.  Many of the projects will allow farmers to install solar panels on their properties.  Mike Bloomberg’s “Bucks for Boilers” is turning heads.  Dedicated to reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2030, the former NYC mayor said he would slash the use of fossil fuels, including natural gas, for cooking, heat and hot water and instead promote pollution-free appliances and zero-carbon furnaces through federal incentives.  He would also like to see all new buildings meet zero-carbon emissions on site using renewable sources by 2025.  Bloomberg continues, “We’re going to help people get cleaner, pollution-free homes and buildings, and we’ll put thousands of people to work installing that infrastructure. Already, there are more renewable energy jobs in western Pennsylvania than jobs in fossil fuels…”  The former mayor’s proposals may face opposition from local and state governments, specifically those in charge of setting building codes.  Would amount to an unrealistic leap or a necessary step to improving efficiency?  Will projected energy savings or lowered emissions be enough to inspire greater investments?

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 16, 2020 1:33 pm GMT

One of today’s challenges is some believe efficiency programs are based on lackluster incremental change and that reducing greenhouse gas emissions carries no economical value. 

Perhaps an argument towards the pricing of carbon, though it's silly that the economic value of reducing energy consumption even needs further bolstering

Despite an overall drop in investments, studies show an increase in participation.  A University of Michigan survey found that half of Michigan’s local governments have taken steps to improve energy efficiency which is more than double the 22 percent reported a decade ago

This is what I like to see though-- there are a host of advantages to investing in energy efficiency and really no downsides.

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