THE President’s State of the Union address called for doubling energy productivity within the next 20 years as a way to fuel economic growth and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
While the other Washington debates a national economic fix, there is widespread, bipartisan support for the recommendations released last week by the Alliance to Save Energy’s Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy highlighted in the president’s speech. The plan calls for a doubling of energy productivity, which would lead to a 2 percent growth in the GDP by making public and private investments, modernizing manufacturing and educating consumers.
An outstanding panel of business, industry and environmental leaders put together a series of actions that can be taken today — many of them don’t need legislative action.
We in the Northwest take great pride in our energy-conservation ethic. Since the 1980s, half of the growth in energy demand in our region has been met through energy efficiency. In fact, through 2008 the energy saved in our region is enough to power the state of Idaho, along with Western Montana and a city the size of Eugene, Ore., for a year. It means that we in the Northwest paid $1.8 billion less for electricity due to energy efficiency.
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Yet, annually our nation wastes more energy than it uses. Fifty-seven percent of the energy that flows into our economy — from oil, coal, natural gas or renewable energy — is wasted as heat, production inefficiencies or failure to deploy the best technologies available to us today. It’s costing businesses and households as much as $130 billion per year.
Much like the national effort to improve our educational system, the Commission on Energy Efficiency is calling for a national Race to the Top for energy productivity. The goal is to challenge states and local governments to come up with a plan to cut energy waste.
Incentives and investments can be used to create competition for innovation in energy productivity; more energy-efficient building codes; transportation infrastructure improvements; and regulatory reform around energy efficiencies. The purpose would be to reward results that lead to even greater productivity. It’s working in the 19 states that received Race to the Top incentives for education reform.
Initiatives such as the stricter energy building codes in Seattle and Washington work. If adopted nationally, as much as $97 billion in energy savings can be realized. Using more favorable tax treatments for incentivizing energy productivity technologies and research can mean billions in energy savings and new jobs. Through industrial modernization, our manufacturing sector can save as much as $94 billion through increased energy productivity.
Consumers, all of us, can do our part, too. Simple things: changing out inefficient lighting and using light-emitting diode (LED) lights at home; replacing inefficient heaters, refrigerators, water heaters and other appliances with Energy Star models. Would you double your energy productivity if it meant saving as much as $1,000 per year?
In all, it’s estimated that by 2030, 1.3 million jobs can be added, a total of $327 billion in energy productivity savings will be realized, $100 billion annually in decreased energy imports with a benefit of carbon dioxide emissions reduced by a third.
The time is now for our country to act. Sign on to the Alliance to Save Energy’s Action Alert to call on legislators, regulators and industry leaders to act on the Energy 2030 plan.
Together, all Americans working together can achieve energy productivity that will fuel our economic growth.
Daniel J. Evans, left, is a former U.S. senator and former Washington state governor. Jorge Carrasco is superintendent of Seattle City Light and a member of the Alliance’s Commission on National Energy and Efficiency Policy.