We all know them. Every family and office has at least one. That quiet and hardworking member of the team that day in and day out gets the job done.
No fanfare needed. Just consistently delivering results.
In the world of energy, that quiet and hardworking team member is energy efficiency. Every day, it cuts costs and cuts pollution, both for electricity and for heating. In doing so, it makes us better prepared for the future when climate change demands that we move away from fossil fuels and rely on cleaner and lower cost electricity.
At about half the cost of generating electricity, energy efficiency remains the lowest cost electric power resource. If we didn’t cut electric energy use with energy efficiency we would pay twice as much to buy that power from a power plant.
For more than a decade, Vermont has been a leader in relying on cleaner and low cost energy efficiency. In practical terms, our efficiency investments have avoided building new, expensive and polluting power plants, and has reduced the fossil fuels needed to heat our homes. Our reliance on efficiency also frees up energy for new uses such as heat pumps and transportation.
Energy efficiency is simply part of any sensible long-term energy strategy.
Here are some numbers:
In the past 13 years, electric efficiency in Vermont has produced savings of over 12.7 million megawatt hours. That is equal to the power needed to supply every home in Vermont for five years.
For 2014, energy efficiency met 13.3 percent of Vermont’s electric supply needs, an increase over 2013.
At the same time, electric energy efficiency in Vermont cut polluting greenhouse gas emissions by 8.7million metric tons since 2000. That is equivalent to reducing pollution by taking 1.8 million cars off the road each year.
But that is only part of the story. The regional New England grid operator recognizes the clear value of energy efficiency and holds it to high standards. Vermont is paid about $4 million dollars every year for its electric energy efficiency contribution to meeting the region’s power needs. Not only is that money reinvested in Vermont, and reduces fossil fuel use for heating, it lowers electric power costs for everyone in the region.
And in terms of electric transmission, Vermont’s investments in energy efficiency have deferred building over $279 million dollars of new electric transmission lines over the next decade.
From ski areas to grocery stores to homes and manufacturing, our energy efficiency efforts produce real results. Vermont’s employers are not only cleaner businesses, but also more competitive. For example, seventy five percent of Vermont ski areas have switched to more efficient snowmaking equipment, installing 2700 new snow guns that use up to 85% less energy to operate. That is a savings for all of us.
For such a quiet and hardworking resource, it is troubling that it has been caught in a political buzz saw this year. Energy efficiency was taken political hostage and cut as part of a new energy bill. We all know politics is not pretty. But it is sad when such shenanigans trump common sense, good policy and sound economics.
Rather than reward this quiet and hardworking team member, its ability to perform and deliver savings is being cut. Going forward, this means we will all pay more and pollute more.
It is time to make sure we rely on the cleanest and lowest cost resources. We should not leave real savings on the table and should not let politics elbow out the common sense solutions that benefit all Vermonters.