While Washington may be gridlocked by partisan battles, the recession has spurred the rest of America to implement energy efficiency efforts, which have led to a 2 percent reduction in energy waste each year, and to invest in alternative energy sources, while the US military has made a marked shift to clean energy for many of its needs, says an upbeat report, emphasizing that the clean energy revolution is gaining a foothold. However, as a nation, we still waste a lot of energy and investing in more efficiency measures can lead to significant savings and millions of new jobs.
The report, Powering Up America: The Revolution Began Yesterday, has been put together by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, which funds innovative projects that advance solutions to basic and enduring problems. It says Americans are investing in efficiency measures in their homes, offices and schools.
The 2 percent waste reduction per year at US homes and businesses is double what conventional economists predicted just a decade ago, it points out. And K-12 schools are showing dramatic progress, with administrators tapping opportunities with power-saving potential. The nation’s 133,000 K-12 schools annually spend $7.5 billion on energy and according to the report, thousands of these institutions are pioneering new methods for reducing utility bills and freeing up money for education.
The US military, the nation’s single largest energy consumer, is also leading the paradigm shift to clean energy. Over the past decade, the nation’s armed forces have adopted clean energy sources, while improving energy productivity by 13.3 percent over a 2003 baseline – which the Tremaine Foundation says is twice the rate of the rest of the national economy.
The report cites examples from the military, a Crayola crayon factory in Pennsylvania, schools in Connecticut and other facilities across the country to prove its point.
However, it admits that despite America’s success in making energy more productive, consumers are still paying more than they should for electricity, primarily because of how much energy is wasted. It says that as a nation, we still waste a “shocking 86 percent of the energy we consume,” primarily through escaped heat as electricity is generated, transmitted, and distributed, which represents a huge drag on our economy.
It concludes that a determined policy of efficiency investments could lead to the creation of almost two million new jobs, while saving consumers the equivalent of $2,600 per household per year. The report highlights the surprisingly rapid recent growth of distributed energy, including on-site solar, wind and combined heat-and-power systems, that has begun spurring a boom in energy productivity.
Clean energy investments have proved to be a net positive, as other studies show. In February, a study found clean energy policies cost electricity ratepayers in North Carolina less than they would have paid without these policies. The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) commissioned two research groups to conduct an independent analysis — RTI International and La Capra Associates — released the study titled “The Economic, Utility Portfolio, and Rate Impact of Clean Energy Development in North Carolina.”