Peter Lehner, Executive Director, New York City
Common-sense carbon pollution standards for power plants—like the proposed standards that President Obama will unveil next week–can protect our pocketbooks as well as our health, according to a new study. By fueling a surge in energy efficiency, standards that would reduce carbon pollution 25 percent by 2020 could create 274,000 new jobs and save Americans more than $37 billion on energy bills.
NRDC asked ICF International, an independent firm that analyzes electricity markets for industry and government, to study the economic impacts of our innovative plan to cut power plant pollution, which is widely expected to influence the EPA’s upcoming standards. The analysts found that NRDC’s plan to cut carbon pollution nearly 25 percent by 2020 (from 2012 levels) would lower household electric bills for the average American by $103 each year. The annual savings for homes and businesses nationwide would reach $37.4 billion in 2020. And by driving the growth of energy efficiency, carbon pollution standards would also create 274,000 new efficiency-related jobs.
These are good, local jobs that cannot be outsourced. Energy efficiency happens when electricians, plumbers, carpenters, roofers, heating installers, insulation contractors and others put on their hats and boots and get to work in our homes, our downtowns, our offices and factories. In order to cut carbon pollution 25 percent, America will need more than 274,000 good people on the job, all over the country. Florida, for example, could see 10,000 new efficiency jobs by 2020, according to the new analysis; Ohio, 8,600.
If the EPA were to adopt NRDC’s plan, Illinois would save $803 million in electric costs in 2020 alone, and Michigan, more than $1 billion. These aren’t pie-in-the-sky projections. Today, energy efficiency programs are already saving money for consumers. Michigan electric customers saved a net $800 million on electric bills within the first three years of the state launching its energy efficiency program, which included rebates for energy efficient products and cash back for old appliances.
California estimates that in the past two years alone, its utility customers have saved $900 million through its efficiency programs.
In Maryland, a program funded by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative—a cap-and-trade program that has successfully cut carbon pollution 30 percent in the past 5 years for its 9 member states in the Northeast—low-to-moderate income residents are saving an average of $50 each month on their electric bills, thanks to home energy efficiency improvements and education. In total, efficiency programs funded through RGGI in are on track to save consumers $1.3 billion on energy bills.
Energy efficiency really works. I’ve see it in my own home, where I’ve lowered my heating bills and made my home more comfortable by plugging drafts, installing new insulation, and replacing some old windows. I tracked down and sealed some of these drafts myself. When I had a contractor come in, he used an infrared heat detector to find even more.
When state governments and utility companies expand their energy efficiency programs, as they’re likely to do under the proposed new carbon standards, millions of Americans will have more opportunities to save money through efficiency. And they’ll need people to get the work done.
As the United States moves to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants, energy efficiency can and should play a major role. Energy efficiency has provided more energy in the past 40 years than coal, oil, wind and nuclear put together. It’s clean, creates jobs, saves money for consumers, and we’ve only scratched the surface of its potential. By harnessing the power of energy efficiency, carbon pollution standards will protect health and create economic benefits for decades to come.
[This post is part of our Wasteland series, featuring people, towns, businesses and industries that are finding innovative ways to cut waste, boost efficiency and save money, time and valuable resources.]
Photo Credit: Carbon Regulation Economics/shutterstock