traffic lights

The Power Of Energy Efficiency

Our nonprofit sits in the sun-drenched San Joaquin Valley. It's not the hottest part of California, but it is close. It gets warm here, as in my hands-burn-when-I-touch-the-steering wheel warm.

Thus, power bills are high. My June bill topped $400, and was the second-highest monthly expense behind my mortgage. Most of it is my own fault: The air conditioner is 18 years old. We haven't added extra insulation or taken many efficiency measures. And my family likes the house cool. My daughter is home from college (Go Ducks!) for the summer and unemployed, so the a/c runs much of the time. It is an argument I can't win.

But, I still believe in energy efficiency. EnergySavvy claims 1.6 million homes could receive energy upgrades and 220,000 jobs could be created for half the cost of one nuke plant. The savings are remarkable, and they really aren't that costly to obtain. Take lighting for instance. Many people have told me that lighting retrofits aren't worth it. That's not true.

In this Clean Technica post, the Earth Policy Institute notes that lighting is responsible for 19 percent of the world's energy demand, and that its carbon emissions equal 70 percent of those released by vehicles globally. A concerted effort on that front could be powerful.

LED lights are taking center stage, and assuming a larger presence. Their prices are dropping, and places with lots of lights are seeing significant savings. The Clean Technica story notes that New York City cut its yearly maintenance and power bill some $6 million just by replacing traffic lights with LEDs.

By the way, our organization is working with cities through the San Joaquin Valley, helping them reduce costs by, among other things, retrofitting lights. Many of these communities have slashed staff and cut budgets in this horrible recession. Maybe they can preserve a few positions or reopen a library with money saved from lower power bills.

Efficiency is the easiest and most cost effective part of the clean energy movement, and the government supports it. Just today, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency listed a variety of products that are among the most energy efficient. More on that here.

Efficiency really is, as DOE chief Steven Chu says, more than low-hanging fruit: "It is fruit on the ground."

And ready to be picked.