Energy efficiency is the new normal, according to Consumer Energy Solutions
Consumer Energy Solutions, a long-time proponent of energy efficiency, sees the potential for continued economic growth coupled with enhanced environmental protection.
A recent report from the International Energy Agency notes, indicates that in 2014, for the first time in 40 years, there was a “decoupling” of economic growth and carbon dioxide emissions: the world economy grew, but CO2 emissions did not. The Washington Post, commenting on this announcement, observed that what appeared to be a tight link between economic growth and the use of more energy has seemed an almost invariant fact of the modern industrial world, and has led some to suggest that economic growth itself is incompatible with environmental protection. Clearly, it seems, that is not the case.1
The IEA report attributes the 2014 results to a number of factors. One is China’s shift to a greater use of renewable resources; another very important one is the fact that OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries have both advanced renewable energy production and combined it with greater energy efficiency. That’s certainly the case in the U.S. electricity industry, according to Patrick J. Clouden, CEO, Consumer Energy Solutions, Inc., who adds that the report from the IEA supports, on a macro level, what his company has been seeing for years with thousands of customers: energy efficiency enables everyone to do more while consuming less power.
Consumer Energy Solutions officials say a trend taking place in the world of commercial LED lighting is affordability. In the past LED lights were significantly more expensive than traditional lights, so making the switch could be daunting. But now it is becoming much more affordable to choose LED lights. In fact, companies can even lease them, Clouden says. CES is, on average, seeing a 30-50% savings per annum for their business clients who are converting their incandescent lighting to LED lighting. For one client, CES upgraded all types of lighting elements in one building to LED; the upgrades, for this one building alone, saved the company over $180,000 over a five-year horizon.
On the federal level, Clouden notes, energy efficiency for consumers is being encouraged by the residential energy tax credit provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provides homeowners a tax credit of up to 30% of the cost of qualifying energy-efficient improvements to their existing homes.2 More broadly, the Obama administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 calls for a seven percent increase in funding for clean energy and a new $4 billion fund to encourage states to make faster and deeper cuts to power plant emissions.
Nonetheless, in February the American Energy Innovation Council, a group that includes former Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates and General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, issued a report stating that federal government investments in energy research, development, and demonstration projects have been flat for the past five years.
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“To solve the world’s energy and climate challenges we need hundreds of new ideas and hundreds of companies working on them,” says Gates. “That is not going to happen without the U.S. government’s continued tradition of leadership in R&D.” Echoing Gates’s comment, council member Norman Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, says, “We believe it is deeply in America’s economic and security interests to double or triple long-term R&D investments. We urge this to become a priority for the new Congress, the president, and leaders of both parties.”3
It seems likely that as the public comes to a greater understanding of the benefits of energy efficiency for the environment and the nation’s economy, bipartisan support for intensified energy research will arise. In the meantime, there are a number of promising local initiatives in the works. In California, for example, the California Energy Commission has just released the latest in a long line of energy-efficiency standards that have made the Golden State a world leader in saving electricity. The commission is writing proposed minimum power consumption standards that it estimates would save 2,702 gigawatt hours a year of electricity, roughly the combined usage of the cities of Long Beach, Anaheim, Huntington Beach, and Riverside—an area with an aggregate population of 1.3 million.4
“As a pioneer in energy efficiency, both for consumers and for business,” says Clouden, “it’s both encouraging and satisfying to see what was once regarded as a fad become the ‘new normal.’ We devote a lot of our time to helping our customers operate more efficiently, and we also pay a great deal of attention to applying new technology as it develops. In a lot of areas, such as solid-state lighting, we’re just now beginning to find out what’s possible. The future of energy use, both in this country and worldwide, will be an increasing ability to do more, better, with less.”
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All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.