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Energy efficiency saves money and land - and creates jobs!
2/24/2017 Volume XLVII, No. 8

It’s easy to see the pros of energy efficiency. A well-insulated building with high efficiency heating and cooling, state-of-the-art appliances, efficient lighting and “smart” controls can slash energy use and save lots of money. At the same time, it boosts public health by reducing air pollution.

Energy efficiency also saves land by reducing “energy sprawl” – the enormous amount of land needed for extracting, harvesting, processing and transporting fuels.

But there’s another plus to energy efficiency that’s less obvious: jobs!

A new report shows that the energy efficiency industry is already supporting at least 1.9 million jobs in the United States, and employers expect another 9 percent growth this year.

“It employs about twice as many workers as the auto industry … and almost 10 times as many workers as the oil and gas extraction industry. It’s a big number,” said Jim Barrett, chief economist for the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Both the federal and state governments can encourage energy efficiency projects by providing incentives for utilities, families and businesses to invest.

Some states have been faster than others to jump on the energy efficiency bandwagon.

The report, “Energy Efficiency Jobs in America,” identifies the top 10 states investing in energy efficiency and creating jobs. California led the pack, followed by Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, New York, Georgia, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

What about New Jersey jobs? This state we’re in wasn’t given a numerical ranking, but the report notes that as of 2015, about 38,400 New Jerseyans were working in energy efficiency related jobs. Most are employed by small businesses in sales, installation, engineering and research, manufacturing, and professional services.  

This is consistent nationally, with most energy efficiency jobs provided by small firms rather than large corporations. For this reason, energy efficiency jobs were often undercounted in the past.

The ACEEE provides an annual scorecard, ranking all 50 states by energy efficiency policies and results. Not long ago, New Jersey was ranked seventh, but fell to 24thin 2016, down from 21st the previous year. 

We can do better! Enhancing state policies to advance energy efficiency will not only yield savings for consumers and cleaner air, but will also provide more jobs for New Jerseyans.

The report concludes that major economic opportunities remain in the energy efficiency sector. According to the report, more jobs can be created if states do the following:

  • Prioritize the role of energy efficiency on the state level by developing and/or strengthening clean energy standards;
  • Advance energy efficiency standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy for appliances and equipment;
  • Strengthen building codes to capture all cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities at the time of design and construction;
  • Accelerate energy efficiency improvements in buildings and devices that use electricity or natural gas.

“Increased energy efficiency has driven remarkable savings for consumers,” noted the report. It added that residents of states with the weakest energy efficiency policies saw their monthly energy bills go up twice as much as people in the most efficient states.

A 2011 Wilderness Society study on energy sprawl estimated that a single 1,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant requires roughly 23,000 acres of land.

If we can reduce the demand for power, we can reap huge dividends for the environment by saving land. Conservation of energy is by far the best and most efficient way to help the environment!

Let’s increase energy efficiency to save money, save land, reduce emissions that cause health problems … and create jobs!

To read the energy efficiency jobs report, go to http://www.e2.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/EnergyEfficiencyJobsInAmerica_FINAL.pdf. To see ACEEE’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which ranks all 50 states, go to http://aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard.

To learn more about the Wilderness Society study, go to http://wilderness.org/article/saving-energy-saves-lands.

And for more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org.

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