Energy efficiency is the cleanest and cheapest way for New England to meet its energy needs. We can save money and create jobs while reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
Efficiency is often confused with conservation, which connotes making do with less: turning down the heat or driving a smaller car. But efficiency actually means doing more with less, say, by building refrigerators that use less energy but work just as well as current models. Compared to all other options, efficiency and conservation together cost less to deliver, provide the greatest reductions in climate change pollution, and offer the best opportunities for clean economic development.
Experts say that economy-wide efficiency improvements could have a dramatic effect on our energy consumption. A recent report by the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships noted that implementing all cost-effective efficiency in the region would cut electricity consumption by about 20 percent from projected demand by 2018, equivalent to the annual output of about four large coal-fired power plants. The electricity saved could power 4 million homes for one year — about equal to the households in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont combined.
CLF has been instrumental in creating an infrastructure that generates revenue for energy efficiency in New England, including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and ISO New England’s Forward Capacity Auction. In addition, CLF advocates for stringent building codes and standards for appliances, lighting fixtures, and other devices used in homes and offices to reduce energy demand.
Buildings, in particular, are ripe for improvement. In the United States, 40 percent of all energy used goes to heat, light, and cool residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. The green building industry has made great strides in recent years, creating new products and building methods to make buildings much more efficient. A 2010 National Academy of Sciences study found that buildings could use nearly 60 percent less electricity by 2030 by installing existing technologies, like compact fluorescents or LEDs, insulation, double- or triple-paned windows, and on-demand or solar hot water heaters. Tuning up and optimizing settings on climate controls would also contribute.
Efficiency seems like a win-win, but some market incentives are misaligned. Traditionally, utilities have made more money by selling more electricity, giving them no incentive to promote efficiency. One way to correct this imbalance is to decouple utility profits from the amount of energy sold, a policy CLF has advocated for successfully in Massachusetts and continues to promote throughout New England.