What is the cheapest, cleanest and healthiest fuel for our future? it's not wind and it's not solar. It's energy efficiency. Through measures that increase efficiency, we can obtain the same goods and services through less power. This saves money, creates jobs and improves our health.
Maryland's coal-fired power plants produce toxic pollution, nitrogen oxide compounds, sulfur dioxides, fine particulate matter and carbon dioxide, all of which cause significant health problems in Maryland, particularly in the most vulnerable populations.
Energy efficiency saves money
Generating a kilowatt of power costs between 7-16 cents. In contrast, implementing energy efficiency measures to save that kilowatt costs on average only 2.7 cents.(1) Energy efficiency works: The U.S. currently uses only about half the electricity we would be using without the increases in efficiency implemented since 1970. Over this period, energy efficiency has saved consumers and businesses trillions of dollars - nearly $800 billion in 2014 alone, while our economy has continued to grow.(2)
Energy efficiency creates jobs
Installing energy efficiency measures produces direct job growth - up to 900,000 new jobs,(3) but jobs are also generated in R&D and in the supply chain. In addition, spending the funds saved through energy efficiency creates jobs throughout the economy. [LS: Do we have specifics on types of jobs, quantity? Ex. Since xxxx, Maryland has created xxxx new jobs in xxxx, or Maryland spent xxxx on clean energy because of xxxx efficiency savings - or something similar?]
Energy efficiency reduces air pollution, dramatically improving health
Nearly half of America's power is generated by burning coal. Emissions from coal-fired power plants cause dangerous ground-level ozone and add millions of pounds of hazardous compounds (i.e., mercury, arsenic), and fine particles into the air we breathe. This air pollution irritates and damages lung tissue, sometimes permanently, and increases the incidence and severity of respiratory and cardiovascular disease [LS: such as asthma and xxxx]. Generating power from burning coal is responsible for millions of hospital visits and thousands of deaths each year.(4)
But aren't we already pursuing every possible way to save energy?
No. Despite our progress, we are not taking advantage of many additional cost-effective opportunities to enhance energy efficiency. If we took advantage of all paths to efficiency, experts estimate that the U.S. could reduce demand for power by 50 percent by 2050. These opportunities include:
- Updating building designs and codes
- Streamlining industrial processes
- Retrofitting older buildings
- Increasing energy efficiency standards for products and equipment
- Incentivizing more sustainable transportation and consumer behavior.(3)
Maryland is poised to be a leader in energy efficiency
Through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (GGRA), passed in 2009, and renewed in 2016, Maryland set the goal of reducing both overall power consumption and peak load by 15 percent relative to 2006 levels by the year 2020. In July 2015, Maryland's Public Service Commission (PSC) approved an ambitious new target for the EmPOWER Maryland energy efficiency program during 2016-2018 - reduce demand by two percent per year. Only three other states have adopted such an ambitious target (Vermont, New York and Maine), making Maryland a national leader in energy efficiency. [LS: Is this still true? From ACEEE/2015 - "The top 10 states for energy efficiency are Massachusetts, California, Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, and New York, with Minnesota and Illinois tied for 10th place." (Maryland was voted "most improved" by ACEEE.) If so, I would change text to - Maryland is one of the top ten states for energy efficiency in the U.S.]
Coal pollution: the healthiest watt is the one we don't use
In 2013, coal accounted for 44 percent of Maryland's energy production. When we reduce the demand for power by increasing energy efficiency, all of the dangerous emissions that would have been released by generating that power are automatically eliminated.
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What is the solution?
CONSUMER Increase consumer knowledge of energy use and energy-saving options, increase financial incentives and price signals and incorporate the true cost of energy usage in consumer products and services.(3)
BUSINESS Use product and equipment standards and building codes.(3)
GOVERNMENT Push for higher energy efficiency standards on the local, state and federal levels, such as the PSC's two percent per year retail energy sales reduction goal.
PERSONAL In your home or business, save energy whenever possible. For example, turn off and unplug appliances instead of using "sleep" mode when not in use.
1. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Saving Energy Cost-Effectively: A National Review of the Cost of Energy Saved through Utility-Sector Energy Efficiency Programs (September 2009). Retrieved from http://aceee.org/files/pdf/conferences/eer/2009/4C_Friedrich_Eldridge.pdf
2. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (June 2015). 35 years of energy efficiency progress, 35 more years of energy efficiency opportunity. Retrieved from http://aceee.org/blog/2015/06/35-years-energy-efficiency-progress
3. McKinsey & Company. Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy (July 2009). Retrieved from http://www.mckinsey.com/client_service/electric_power_and_natural_gas/latest_thinking/unlocking_energy_efficiency_in_the_us_economy
4. EPA. Cleaning Up Commonly Found Air Pollutants. Retrieved from http://www3.epa.gov/airquality/peg_caa/cleanup.html
5. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (July 2015). Retrieved from http://database.aceee.org/state/energy-efficiency-resource-standards