Wasting less to save more: the economic benefits of energy efficiency in California

When you flick on a light switch, the vast infrastructure of energy sources and electricity grids that supplied the power for your light bulb is probably the last thing on your mind.  It’s time we started paying attention to it, because where we get our energy from and how we use it have a huge impact on our environment and our economy.

Right now, we get most of our energy from dirty sources that emit global warming pollution and raise energy bills for American families. In fact, if we continue to rely on fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas to power our homes and businesses, and fuel our transportation, then by 2030, consumers in California will be spending as much as $980 more on fossil fuels every year. We need to repower America with clean energy and invest in efficiency measures so we can keep meeting our energy needs without the pollution and costs associated with fossil fuels, all while creating millions of green jobs for American workers.

Our national leaders recognize the need for action on this issue.  In June the House passed a bill that would put us on track to build a strong 21st century clean energy economy, and now the Senate is taking up the issue.  On September 30th, the Senate introduced the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, which establishes the framework for a bill that will help put Americans back in control of our energy economy.  This bill will create good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced, save Americans money on their utility bills, and reduce global warming pollution.

 Unfortunately, powerful interests in the fossil fuel and homebuilding industries have been working hard to generate opposition to these bills, claiming that switching to clean energy and emphasizing efficiency measures would cost too much.

Nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to energy efficiency, the interests of the environment and the economy are perfectly aligned: the less energy we use, the less we spend on energy bills. There may be an initial investment required to install a more efficient furnace or purchase a higher quality of insulation, but these costs are recouped many times over in annual energy savings and numerous studies have shown that investing in energy efficiency creates many times more jobs than investing in the dirty technologies of the past.

 A recent report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy confirms these advantages, explaining that not only will energy efficiency policies lower energy costs and create jobs, but the stronger we make the bill, the bigger those benefits become. 

 For example, the report shows that California households could save an average of $209 per year and benefit from the creation of 66,200 new sustainable jobs over the next ten years if Congress acts now to include strong energy efficiency improvements in energy and global warming legislation. The energy efficiency provisions would also prevent 30 million tons of global warming pollution from being emitted into the atmosphere.

 We’ve known about the threat of global warming and the benefits of energy efficiency for decades, but special interests have succeeded in blocking any real progress at the national level until now.  It’s time for us to invest in a clean energy economy so that when you flick on your light switch, you’re doing more than just illuminating your home.  By repowering America with clean energy, we’re investing in a brighter future for our environment and our economy.

This is an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up. We need Senator Feinstein to push for strong clean energy and global warming legislation by joining Senator Schumer in co-sponsoring the Save American Energy Act, which calls for utilities to become 15% more efficient by 2020, and by requiring utilities to spend one-third of the money they receive from the bill on energy efficiency.

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