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Rethinking the need for EE

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Henry Craver's picture
Small Business Owner Self-employed

As a small business owner, I'm always trying to find ways to cut costs and boost the dependability of my services. To that end, I've become increasingly invested in learning about energy saving...

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  • Jul 21, 2021 3:49 pm GMT
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Historic flooding in Germany, a record shattering heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, and the ever looming threat of yet another summer of California fires. Climate change doesn’t deserve all the blame for the bad weather, but a mighty big chunk of it. So, it’s only logical that experts and concerned citizens alike should ramp up calls for action against global warming. As it relates to the power industry, climate change activism usually rings the bell for conservation and energy efficiency. 

The energy efficiency zeal is no different this summer. A google search on the topic shows dozens of articles and press releases advocating for the cause.

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Here’s an excerpt from Maine Senator Susan Collins’ press release on the Green Retrofits Act of 2021 she’s proposed: 

“Energy efficiency measures not only have an important role in reducing carbon emissions, but can also save families hundreds of dollars each year by substantially lowering their utility bills,” said Senator Collins, the Ranking Member of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee. “By upgrading affordable housing units with efficient energy, heating, and water systems and making weatherization improvements, our bipartisan bill would reduce costs for working families and taxpayers while helping to combat climate change.”

In a recent article in American City in country about equitable energy efficiency, the concept is described as a fundamental global warming mitigator: 

“It’s a pretty foundational climate policy with a lot of benefits,” says Caroline Keicher of the City Energy project: “Building owners and tenants can save money on utilities, businesses can reduce operating costs, tenants can have information to make more informed choices, and everyone benefits from cleaner air and healthier buildings.”

The author of the same article boasts the efficacy of the ee efficiency initiative, pointing out that participating buildings have cut their consumption 3-8 percent. 

In a glowing Reuters profile, Donnel Baird, the founder of BlocPower, a startup that aims to make buildings in poor areas more efficient, describes his ee push like this: 

"We get to solve the climate crisis and we get to make Black and brown communities and low-income white communities healthier, greener and wealthier. So that's what BlocPower is about. And that's what I'm about."

Reading through the news, it seems the consensus is that energy efficiency plays a vital role in mitigating climate change and is thus deserving of big investments. What I find frustrating about this mindset is that it seems to be based on the false premise that consuming energy is bad. 

What none of these write-ups or press releases ever mention is that consuming energy is only bad for the planet when that energy is dirty: coal, gas etc. They fail to mention that there are countries, like Sweden and France, where nobody has to worry about turning the lights off or funding some expensive energy efficiency program that provides a measly 3-8% energy savings in participating buildings. That’s right, a robust nuclear energy infrastructure renders energy efficiency completely pointless. So why are we still talking about incentives to weatherize windows and cut back during peak demand?

I'm all ears. 


 

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