Energy efficiency and renewable energy standards could save U.S. consumers $200 billion a year by 2030.
There also is an equal opportunity for the commercial and industrial sectors to save money by the U.S. adopting more aggressive renewable energy measures, panelists said at a May 21 press conference from the Consumer Federation of America.
Medium and large-sized companies can adopt improvements in building shells, ventilation, lighting and more efficient heating and cooling, said Rob Sargent, Energy Program Director at Environment America.
“The potential for efficiency gains are pretty evenly distributed across the commercial, residential and industrial sectors,” he said. “Building codes and efficiency standards can move us in the right direction.”
Improved lighting is where companies can get the biggest bang for their buck, said Suzanne Watson, Policy Director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
“Air and filtration are among the biggest areas of losses. Variable speed motors are an often-overlooked method. An energy audit is the first step,” Watson said.
The Consumer Federation of America, along with Environment America, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Energy Future Coalition, are calling for more action from Congress on renewable energy. The groups are part of the Campaign for an Energy Efficient America.
“Utilities prefer to build centralized power plants and they have resisted renewable energy for years. That’s why we need the renewable energy standard,” said Mark Cooper, Director of Research at the Consumer Federation of America.
“With cap-and-trade, we need stronger renewable energy standards, not weaker ones, which industry wants,” Cooper said.
Supply curve of low-carbon options demonstrates a possibility to save consumers $200 billion annually by 2030.
“Less aggressive will still be favorable, but will leave considerable consumer savings on the table,” Cooper said.
In the second decade of a renewable energy standard, there will be a scramble to rapidly ramp up renewable energy sources, instead of having renewables adopted now, he said.
“A renewable energy standard needs to be part of U.S. policy, with our without climate legislation,” he said.
With House and Senate committees marking up legislation on energy, now is the time to strive for more, not less, renewable energy requirements, Sargent said.
A national renewable industry standard calling for 25 percent of energy from renewables by 2025, as called a Senate bill sponsored by Tom Udall (D-N.M.), would lower electricity and gas bills by 64 percent, resulting in savings of $75 a month, Sargent said.
“To deliver on the promise of clean energy and the jobs that come with it, we have to demand that clean energy is put front and center. Big oil, coal and nuclear are mounting big campaigns to keep their strangleholds on U.S. energy production, however,” Sargent said.
Easily implementable energy efficiency improvements can reduce electricity consumption by 30 percent, Watson said.
“Efficiency is so cheap, relative to any fuel source,” Watson said. “It’s the only resource that can actually reduce a customers energy usage, producing savings year after year.”
New technologies are needed to meet climate and emissions goals, she said, although businesses can easily adopt compact fluorescent light bulbs and improved insulation.
Energy efficiency measures alone can reduce carbon emissions by 260 million metric tons annually, she said.