Energy Efficiency is An Issue That is Always With Us
States have been concerned with making their buildings more energy efficient for more than
30 years, said David Terry, executive director of the National Association of State Energy Officials. But energy efficiency has long gone past the days of adding weather stripping and insulation. Now, the discussion is all about public-private partnerships, new financing options and using energy efficiency as a way to create jobs. Here’s what Terry said policymakers should do for better energy efficiency.
TAKE THE LEAD.
States and state energy offices have been engaged in energy policy and concerned about energy price, supplies and fuel diversity since the oil embargo of the 1970s, Terry said. “That’s how these offices were formed,” he said. Iowa adopted the first renewable portfolio standard, for instance, in the 1980s. “It’s certainly become more sophisticated and advanced in that time period, but really, the foundation for it (energy efficiency) developed in the states many years ago,” said Terry.
THINK OF PROJECTS AS JOB GENERATORS.
Projects like energy performance contracting can mean savings for the state and jobs in the private sector. In this type of contracting, the state hires a company to evaluate a building and make energy-saving improvements. The savings on utility bills is used, over a set period of time, to pay for the improvements. “The public building piece is particularly important,” Terry said. “It’s privately financed. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
KEEP ENERGY PLANS UP TO DATE.
A governor or legislature may require the state to create a periodic energy plan, which looks at a state’s current and future energy needs and makes policy recommendations on how to meet those needs. “It’s a very inexpensive thing to produce for a state,” said Terry, “but it really informs a legislature’s or governor’s decision-making a lot.” These up-to-date plans can guide the discussion when energy becomes a hot issue. “They provide some data, underpinning whatever energy plans a state makes,” he said.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ENERGY POLICY.
The country all too often only thinks about energy policy when the price of energy spikes. “It’s a little bit like the old saying about the Golden Gate Bridge,” Terry said. “When are you done painting it? Never.” Energy efficiency is like that. “Right now, we’re all doing a good job (with energy efficiency) I think. When prices fall back, we kind of forget about it,” he said. “Remember, this issue is always with us and we can always do better.”
LET YOUR STATE ENERGY OFFICE HELP.
Every state has a state energy office. The offices work on energy efficiency and energy building codes in the public and private sectors, renewable energy, energy production and distribution, and energy security and emergency preparedness. The offices are a good place to find policy support for examining a state’s energy policy, finding “where there’s a gap or weakness,” Terry said. “I think they (the state energy offices) tend to be the conveners in the state, bringing together different energy stakeholders. If there’s a contentious issue or area that needs to be addressed that hasn’t been, … they can work on it.”