The Green New Deal is capturing the attention of many Americans. Global warming is accepted by 97 percent of all scientists as scientific truth. The impacts are happening faster than we thought, but our public policy and our way of living haven’t caught up with the facts. We seem hungry for a solution – for a feasible way to reduce waste, to shift to clean and renewable energy, and create good local jobs.
But we in Connecticut already have our own effective and feasible clean energy solutions at work. With the turn of a key, the passing of a bill, we can continue a positive trajectory of making thousands of homes and buildings energy efficient, while continuing to pursue and expand renewable energy sources such as offshore wind and community solar.
Efficiency and renewable energy sources work together — like rice and beans, which when combined work together to form a complete protein, and gives you benefits neither can alone.
Most of us don’t think a lot about where our energy comes from, or how we use it. We use energy every minute — on our devices, to heat our buildings, power our cars. The vast majority of our energy – 95 percent! — still comes from non-renewable sources including oil, nuclear, and gas, meaning it is producing the pollution that is killing our planet and harming our people. We are making strides – I am sure as your drive around Connecticut you see more and more solar panels on homes. But to make a real change, we have a long way to go.
The other side of the coin is how we use energy – our demand. While new construction is more energy efficient, we still have hundreds of thousands of buildings and homes that waste a horrifying amount of energy for heating and cooling. This can be mitigated by applying building science and relatively simple energy upgrades coupled with education.
Home assessments often detect and allow us to fix health hazards such a mold, carbon monoxide or asthma triggers. They result in lowered heating and utility bills, and the homes lower their carbon emissions. These programs are proven to pay for themselves many times over with a 1 to 7 return on investment, and are delivered by an effective network of Connecticut business owners who have created 34,000 local jobs.
When homes and buildings use less energy, we pollute less and we save money, closing the affordability gap in our state. When the energy we use comes from renewable sources, we pollute dramatically less and do more to mitigate climate change and improve our resilience. Both result in improved air quality and better health, and they create a growing economy.
It is also an issue of equity. For low-income households, paying high utility bills seriously impacts families’ ability to provide food, stable shelter, and other necessities. More than 380,000 families now can’t afford electricity! When we invest in efficiency, we are helping minimize the impact of poverty on children and families.
Connecticut has several energy plans, managed by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). These plans should work together to reach the shared goals of reducing energy burdens through energy efficiency and meeting our energy needs with expanded renewable energy resources. The science is there; the capacity to deliver and improve building performance is there; the jobs are there, and we can increase our efficiency programs, which had been working so well we didn’t notice them!
Recently, our successful demand-reduction weatherization program, which is funded by ratepayer payments through the EnergizeCT program, was decimated when the legislature “swept” those funds for other purposes. Our organization, Efficiency for All, is working with others to sue the state to restore these funds to their rightful and legal uses, but that will take time, and we need action now.
Efficiency is Efficient: In the past 10 years, EnergizeCT has reduced carbon emissions by 11.4 million tons – the equivalent of keeping 2.4 million cars off the road. Residents and business have decreased their energy burden, saving $3.7 billion and helping businesses remain competitive. A 15 percent reduction in energy use could mean 30,000 fewer asthma attacks for Hartford children. The list of benefits goes on and on. Energy Efficiency makes dollars and it makes sense.
What comes to mind when you think of rice and beans? Maybe it’s a staple dish of your community; maybe you know that they combine to give you a complete protein, needed to build muscle and give you energy. It’s food, essential to our lives – just as energy is essential, to our quality of life, our health, our household budgets, our ability to live.
The people of Connecticut need to make sure that the leaders we elect know we value and require energy efficiency and clean energy.
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