Southern states are interested in energy efficiency — but they want a neutral source of information they can trust about what activities and behavior changes best suit their needs and industries, according to a report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
In producing Trusted Partners: Everyday Energy Efficiency Across the South, the Deep South Ethnographic Project at ACEEE visited sites in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and found a lack of effective energy efficiency policies in the South hurt businesses and residents who may pay lower rates but have some of the highest electricity bills in the US.
The study says there is a large potential for energy savings in the South and behavior change is one of the keys to unlock it. Among ACEEE’s recommendations:
- Utilities could adopt a multi-level policy approach to delivering energy efficiency opportunities to small- and medium-sized businesses in small towns.
- Local organizations could offer energy efficiency services and technical assistance programs to small businesses.
- Federal and state programs could expand the availability of farm energy audits, which will make it easier for farmers to apply for grants like the USDA’s Rural Energy Assistance Program that can be used for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements.
- State and local policies should support retrofit technologies that increase the fuel efficiency of existing trucks on the road, such as auxiliary power units. The upfront costs of fuel efficiency improvements pose a barrier for smaller fleet owners.
Additionally, the study says nonprofit, member-based or voluntary associations are key to communicating energy efficiency benefits. Proactive utility partners are lacking, and respondents say market-based solutions cost too much. Several interviewees said they don’t trust government intervention with respect to energy efficiency. The solution may lie with trusted nonprofits or other organizations.
Earlier this month, the Louisiana Public Service Commission nixed plans for a statewide energy efficiency program.