2010’s Dark Horse Energy Source

Energy efficiency positions itself to take a lead role in 2010

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We’ve been calling it our nation’s dark horse energy source for a while now. We’ve been saying it has the potential to wean us off our dependence on dirty foreign and fossil fuels, provide jobs, and fight climate change. And we’ve been saying that if you embrace it, you will save lots of money in the process. So, just in time for Earth Day, we’re delighted to see some strong signs that energy efficiency will be propelling ahead in 2010.

1) The People Like It!  The 2009 economic stimulus plan directed $300 million to fund individual appliance rebate programs in each state. Similar to the sold-out Cash for Clunkers program, these state programs are handing out cold, hard cash-money to consumers who replace old, inefficient appliances with sparkly new appliances that use a lot less energy, save consumers even more money on utility bills, and often already come with other additional discounts and tax incentives. Like the Cash for Clunkers program, these programs are proving to be wildly popular all around the U.S.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that consumers are snatching up their states’ limited supplies of efficient-appliance rebates at near-light speed. No matter where you live in the U.S. (U.S. territories included), you can cash in. You’ll need to apply through your state’s program and, rightly so, eventually provide proof that you recycled your old clunker appliance – don’t fret, these state programs and many retailers make recycling old appliances a cinch.

Think it might be time for an appliance upgrade in your home? Don’t think for too long, or you’ll miss out. Many programs are launching this week, in tandem with Earth Day. Lines may be long to apply for these rebates, but customers are finding the savings – up to hundreds of dollars worth – well worth the wait. Act fast and find out how much you can save and which appliances are eligible in your state.

2) Businesses and the Commercial Building Sector Like it!  After a tough year in 2009, energy efficiency investments and spending are predicted to bounce back at even higher rates than ever before in 2010, according to a fresh-off-the-presses report by Johnson Controls.

The fourth annual report was based on a survey examining energy efficiency trends among more than 1,400 decision makers across North America responsible for managing commercial buildings. The survey found that the nation’s leaders in this sector are paying more attention to efficiency this year than last, are planning a surge of efficiency investments and building retrofits, and are prioritizing efficiency in their new construction projects – in large part to combat the widely held belief among the group that energy prices will climb in 2010. More info here.

The commercial and industrial sectors are responsible for 19 and 31 percent of our country’s overall energy consumption, respectively, and buildings account for a whopping 40 percent of our country’s overall energy consumption and carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

So, if energy efficiency investments rebound in this area and commercial buildings encounter an upswing in efficiency measures this year, as JC’s report predicts, we could see a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption nationally.

3) Energy Star On the Up and Up:  The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency announced last week that their joint Energy Star Program, which was under recent fire for its lax certification process, is undergoing a major revamp, hopefully making the process much more accountable and the Energy Star label more meaningful. 

Until now, the program has required manufacturers applying for the Energy Star label to submit test results proving the efficiency of their products, but recent news reports and a government audit showed that those tests, many times conducted by the manufacturer itself, were sometimes easily fudged.

By the end of the year, under the new revamp, all applications will require certified third-party testing by pre-approved, independent labs. All applications, which had been automated, will now be examined and reviewed by a Energy Star Program staffer.

These are just a few of many recent signs that tell us the outlook for energy efficiency is looking good in 2010. Stay tuned for more energy efficiency news on the unEARTHED blog, as we continue to post the latest and greatest in efficiency from around the nation and globe.

Liz Judge worked at Earthjustice from 2010–2016. During that time, she worked on mountaintop removal mining, national forests, and clean water issues, and led the media and advocacy communications teams.