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Is Energy Efficiency Affordable?

image credit: ID 34888098 © Francoisroux |

New York is trying to reopen during a heat wave with temperatures over 100 and COVID-19 to combat, many have decided to stay indoors. It’s been a month since businesses were allowed to reopen but less than one-tenth of Manhattan office workers have returned to office buildings.  The state wants schools to reopen but they’re already discussing whether or not to close bars and restaurants again.  Despite the recent ups and downs in the number of outbreaks for the state, new climate laws are moving forward to provide energy efficiency for all.  "As we continue our fight against climate change, we must ensure that all New Yorkers have access to clean energy and are not left behind in the transition to a green economy, particularly those in our most vulnerable communities who most directly feel the harmful impacts of climate change and environmental degradation," Governor Cuomo said. He announced clean energy investments to benefit 350,000 low to moderate income households.  Cuomo continued, “This groundbreaking public-private partnership is a smart and innovative approach that will bring affordable, clean energy solutions directly into the homes of those who need them most, and make the lives of all New Yorkers safer and healthier.”  The plans include over $300 million to reduce energy burdens by increasing access to energy efficiency for low-to-medium homeowners and renters.  Upfront costs have always been a major challenge installing energy efficiency projects in homes and businesses. With that obstacle in mind, a pilot program that provides loans for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems will become another option for customers.  NYSERDA Acting President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, "Today's announcement marks an important progression in a series of actions the state is taking to ensure no New Yorker, regardless of income, is denied access to energy efficiency services that provide more comfortable, clean and healthy living environments. Our investment underscores the laser focus we have in advancing New York's just and equitable transition to a carbon-neutral economy under Governor Cuomo's leadership." 

These clean energy investments are part of the $8 billion invested annually into energy-saving programs.  In a four part series on NRDC, questions are raised about how best to prioritize efficiency.  The pros of cutting costs,  reducing energy waste and getting people back to work are met with the concerns about funding efficiency programs amid a pandemic. 

Experts agree on the benefits of EE but investments are of the utmost importance.  Utilities are working toward new efficiency programs like energy saving tips, remote efficiency products, cooling options and virtual energy guides.  Dominion Energy, is currently resuming virtual energy efficiency consultations.  “As people continue to spend more time inside, it’s a great time to focus on their homes’ energy efficiency…During a virtual consultation, we will look at a home’s past energy usage, have the customer walk us through the home to identify areas of improvement, and provide recommendations,” Ginger Greenway, manager of Energy Information Services for Dominion Energy South Carolina said. Just before Biden released his plans for utilities, Duke, Southern and Dominion came together to create the ‘Southeast Energy Exchange Market.’ Among their goals, to cut costs with increased efficiencies, as well as adopting renewable energy faster.  Until everyone is ready to reopen, how is your utility making energy efficiency affordable?


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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 28, 2020

Nevelyn, it's not my utility's job to make saving energy affordable. They're selling me energy - there's no incentive for them. Now, I'm supposed to pay them to tell me how I can use less of their product - to pay them less?

Though it may not make electricity less affordable, it certainly is an efficient way to take their customers' money.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Jul 28, 2020

Energy efficiency pays off for everyone. Simple low cost things are added insulation, plugging leaks around doors and windows and adding a radiant barrier. In a big city apartment that may not be something the home occupant can do. But they can switch to long lasting 10 times more efficient LED lights and save a lot. An LED TV also uses less energy than old cathod ray tube sets. There are things they can do and they will pay off very quickly. 

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Jul 28, 2020

Obviously , the Negawatt is the most cheapest produced Megawatt at all. Cost of production of 1 MWH is ten times the cost of saving of 1 MWH through end-use efficiency improvement.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 30, 2020

"Cost of production of 1 MWH is ten times the cost of saving of 1 MWH through end-use efficiency improvement."

Dr. Amal, what's your basis for this statement?

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Aug 3, 2020

Hi Bob

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the levelized cost of one kWh “generated” as a result of energy efficiency costs $0.02-$0.04, and coal can cost as much as $0.15/kWh. Add to that for a new coal power plant , you need transmission and distribution networks. These tend to upgrade coal generated kwh cost near to $0.20/kwh.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 3, 2020

Dr. Amal, comparisons of efficiency to energy are fundamentally flawed. Efficiency is a ratio - energy out/energy in - and can never be greater than 1.

Efficiency improvements are plagued by both a) physical limits, and b) the emissions footprint of the energy expended to achieve them. If 20 workmen and 6 tons of materials are necessary to retrofit an office building and improve its energy efficiency by 3%, the carbon footprint of the workers' trucks, and manufacturing/shipping the materials, likely outweighs any savings attributable to efficiency "improvements".

Energy production is a scalar quantity, and is thus (theoretically) unlimited. It can be 1 MWh, or 2 MWh, or 7 MWh, or 17,500 MWh.

ACEEE promotes this deception for obvious reasons: the product they're selling literally gets less valuable by the day.

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Aug 3, 2020

Hi Bob

Really, I am convinced with ACEEE analysis.



Nevelyn Black's picture

Thank Nevelyn for the Post!

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