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Pick the Low-Hanging Energy Fruit

Efficiency would also reduce global warming emissions to boot.

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Energy efficiency is called the “low-hanging fruit” of clean energy since technology can be employed in myriad ways to reduce energy consumption and also save money. Efficiency would also reduce global warming emissions to boot. Last year CAP proposed several new efficiency programs including incentives for states to put energy efficiency on equal footing with new power plants; establishment of a federal “energy efficiency resource standard” that requires utilities to reduce energy consumption; and fully funding the Deployment of Combined Heat and Power Systems, District Energy Systems, Waste Energy Recovery Systems, and Efficient Industrial Equipment program to capture and reuse industrial waste heat.

The Obama administration understands the economic and energy benefits of efficiency, and it demonstrated this by investing significant resources in it over the past year. ACES, which the administration supports, includes a 5 percent energy efficiency resource standard. ARRA provided incentives for states to “adopt certain utility regulatory policies to encourage utility-sponsored energy efficiency improvements.” It also included $150 million for nine “combined heat and power” and other industrial waste energy recovery projects. There were 358 other applications for similar eligible shovel-ready projects that would cost $9 billion and create 57,000 jobs. These projects would save the energy equivalent of 160 million barrels of oil annually.

ARRA included a total of $25 billion in spending for private efficiency measures and government programs. President Obama also issued Executive Order 13423 to promote “federal leadership in environmental, energy, and economic performance.” It would require federal agencies to slash their greenhouse gas pollution, “increase energy efficiency, reduce fleet petroleum consumption,” and take other steps to promote efficiency and sustainability.

On December 8, 2009, President Barack Obama proposed including residential and industrial efficiency programs as part of any job creation package considered by Congress to combat unemployment. The program would create economic incentives for owners to retrofit their homes or buildings to become more energy efficient. On December 16, the House passed the Jobs for Main Street Act, H.R. 2847, which expands existing energy loan guarantee programs to include large-scale residential and commercial energy efficiency projects. The Senate should include a more vigorous version of the House measure with a “Home Star” or “cash for caulkers” program in its job creation package. The programs would provide economic incentives to homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient via improved air sealing and insulation, advanced building materials, and state-of-the-art appliances. This would quickly create hundreds of thousands of jobs in construction and manufacturing. It would slice participants’ energy bills by 20 percent or more.

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