Guest Post by Thomas Fuller
A lot of energy efficiency innovations save money on utility bills for businesses, homeowners and even governments that adopt them. So why aren’t they all the rage, taking the planet by storm and reducing utility bills and CO2 emissions overnight?
Partly because you have to spend money to make money. Most energy efficient technology has a price tag attached. If you have a refrigerator that’s good for another 10 years, are you going to buy another one just to save $5 a month in utility bills? Thought not.
It’s also partly because the person who spends the money is not always the same person who makes the money. If my landlord puts solar panels on the roof, he’s making an investment. But I’m paying my own utility bills. I would benefit from his generosity. Well, if he were so generous as to do so, I would be so lucky.
An organisation you’ve probably never heard of spent $6 billion last year on energy efficiency in the U.S. and Canada. They’re called the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, funded in large part by the EPA and DOE, and they’ve come up with a variety of energy savings initiatives, ranging from lighting and water heaters to utility load balancing programs.
But that $6 billion came from rate payers. and although it lowered utility bills by $9.7 billion (and also saved 104,900 GWh of electricity and more than 367 million therms of gas) last year, the sad fact is that the rate payers who got the $9.7 billion in lower bills may not be the same rate payers who paid out the $6 billion. Only 23% of the electric efficiency initiatives target residential ratepayers…
There’s another way to do it, and I think Barack Obama is almost there. Zero or low interest loans to finance the installation of energy efficient devices and things like small-scale solar panels or even residential wind power installations. There are already a variety of incentives for these types of purchases by both consumers and businesses. But we still feel like we’re in the middle of a recession, and that slows down major purchases.
People are generally pretty good about paying back these kinds of loans. The kind of equipment financed usually increases the value of the home or business that puts it in. And the money saved on utility bills is vast.
Combined heat and power plants are as old as electricity–the first power plant ever built was combined heat and power, built by Thomas Edison in 1887. And the US was a leader in this technology, which is just common sense–instead of letting the heat escape as waste when you burn coal or natural gas, use it to heat something, like a building. Or 100,000 buildings, as Con Ed does in New York City.
But we produce less energy today from combined heat and power than we did 10 years ago. Because we don’t have the incentives balanced correctly to stimulate its use.
Instead of paying for inefficient wind farms that keep… getting… more… expensive, let’s get back to financing technologies that we know work well, like CHP and waste to energy plants.
I have no problems with the massive loans George Bush made to banks–it was the right thing to do. I have no problems with Barack Obama’s MBO of General Motors–again it was the right thing to do. We’ll turn a profit on the bank loans, and maybe on GM as well.
So let’s do the same to businesses and homeowners across the country–the rate of return on many energy efficiency innovations is near 40% and the payback for some can be realized in just a few short years. We just need easy credit terms.
Instead of the conversation being about burning fossil fuels, we should be talking about burning money instead.
Thomas Fuller href=”http://www.redbubble.com/people/hfuller