Letters: Reader Feedback – 2006-03-01

Move Beyond Talk Per your "America Is Addicted to Oil" column last month, I also want to applaud the president for his championing of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. But the hard fact is that energy efficiency is really the Rodney Dangerfield of energy solutions—it gets no repsect.

By Staff March 1, 2006

Move Beyond Talk

Per your “America Is Addicted to Oil” column last month, I also want to applaud the president for his championing of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

But the hard fact is that energy efficiency is really the Rodney Dangerfield of energy solutions—it gets no repsect. Clearly, the subject is worth a more comprehensive examination by the mainstream media, and by all of us. Of all the options for electric generation, including current, new and renewable technologies, only energy efficiency can truly proclaim that it is the cleanest, cheapest and most readily available source of new electricity. From high-efficiency lighting and energy-efficient heating and air conditioning, which currently account for 80% of all attainable industrial energy efficiency, to other emerging technologies, the effect of market-based conservation and energy-efficiency initiatives would be immense.

Electricity and oil are, of course, not synonymous, but they are closely related. Energy efficiency and conservation can certainly help us become less dependent on oil in everything from cars to oil-powered generators. But efficiency can play a much greater economic role.

According to a recent study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), “The Technical, Economic and Achievable Potential for Energy Efficiency in the United States: A Meta-Analysis of Recent Studies,” a 24% reduction of all electricity usage can be achieved in the U.S. This translates to potential savings of as many as 100,000 megawatts of electricity.

In addition, the ACEEE has conservatively estimated that energy-efficiency initiatives could deliver $30 billion per year in energy savings to U.S. consumers and businesses. In particular, the business community is best positioned to have a large effect on the economics of energy and the environment, because they use approximately 70% of all electricity produced in the U.S.

In practical terms, this means that the business community can employ large-scale energy efficiencies that would have the same effect as reducing the entire energy consumption of whole towns and cities—or more critically, reduce the need for as many as 200 new power plants. In terms of economic development, the business community could save at least $20 billion per year by employing existing methods of energy efficiency.

Getting back to the president and politics, at the end of the day, good energy policy is a bipartisan opportunity, with much good work still to be done. This includes solid, thoughtful reporting in the national media on the subjects of oil, electricity and the curative effect of energy efficiency.

NEAL VERFUERTH, ORION ENERGY SYSTEMS, MILWAUKEE, WIS.