There has been some mildly good news on the climate change front recently, with data compiled by Reuters showing the U.S. led a 1.3 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized nations in 2012. While largely attributed to the switch from coal to cleaner natural gas, the result also owes a lot to increasing energy efficiency, whether for cars, refrigerators or factories.
A recent report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has pushed for an even bigger effort in this field, claiming that if the Environmental Protection Agency adopted new energy efficiency policies, it could promote reductions in emissions by a further 26 percent from those same 2012 levels.
This will be music to the ears of the Energy Foundation, which is a stronger believer in the power of improved efficiency, and is considered a vital short-term step in a longer-term transition to renewables and other low carbon energies. Recently, the foundation’s efforts have focused on developing new standards, financing arrangements and awareness campaigns in the field. It is pursuing these from the household up to an economy-wide level.
Take, for example, the $16,305 it awarded to California’s Saving Neighborhood Energy to Generate Neighborhood Wealth program, which helps low-and middle-income families access energy savings and the financing necessary to achieve them. The program does this by providing matching funding for retrofitting of single-family homes, which account for about 20 percent of harmful US carbon emissions.
Earlier, the Foundation awarded almost $600,000 to the Natural Resources Defense Council for efforts to improve efficiency policy on energy utilities, building codes and appliance standards. It also recently provided $75,0000 to EarthJustice, and $50,000 to the Consumer Federation of America, both toward improving efficiency standards and labelling around appliances.
The report from the ACEEA, which is itself a recent Energy Foundation grant recipient, makes the case that adoption of energy efficiency technologies could boost U.S. gross domestic product by $17.2 billion and create 611,000 new jobs by 2030, which includes expenditure and employment on construction and manufacturing, as well as reinvestment of the savings from energy use back into the economy.
The Energy Foundation has a similar focus on “advancing policies that open big markets for clean energy technology,” which is clearly a good counter-argument against those who see a transition to a low carbon future as detrimental to growth.
While avoiding the catastrophic future outlined in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report will inevitably require substituting fossil fuels for low-emissions alternatives, decreasing the intensity of dirty energies can also make a huge difference.