Will support for efficiency hold in 2009?

Dec. 19, 2008
By Elisa Wood December 18, 2008 The stars are aligned to make 2009 a good year for energy efficiency — or at least, most of the stars. President-Elect Barack Obama has assembled an energy team that supports clean technologies. Most notably, Obama named Steven Chu as energy secretary on December 15. Chu is a Nobel […]

By Elisa Wood
December 18, 2008

The stars are aligned to make 2009 a good year for energy efficiency — or at least, most of the stars.

President-Elect Barack Obama has assembled an energy team that supports clean technologies. Most notably, Obama named Steven Chu as energy secretary on December 15. Chu is a Nobel Prize winner and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a leader in bringing energy efficiency technologies to market, such as the compact fluorescent light bulb. http://www.lbl.gov/

Obama also is in the process of putting together an economic recovery package that places high priority on energy, including investment in efficiency. The goal is to quickly create jobs by giving ‘shovel-ready’ projects a boost in the sluggish economy. Efficiency projects more easily qualify as ‘shovel-ready’ — set for quick development – than most energy undertakings. Efficiency measures rarely require the kind of time-consuming permitting, engineering and financing of power plant or transmission construction.

So what star is out of place in the sky? The star that governs oil prices. It costs far less to fill up the gas tank now than it did last summer. That is a good thing. The problem is that the US consumer tends to be short-sighted. If gasoline is cheap today, who cares about tomorrow? Energy efficiency falls out of favor.

Joe Loper, senior vice president for the Alliance to Save Energy, warned about this “cycle of complacency” in testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources December 10. Loper recommended $15 billion in economic stimulus money for energy efficiency to keep the nation’s energy goals on track. Investing in efficiency will not only create jobs, but also will foster continued use of technologies that have already proven their worth. “A silent partner” in meeting the nation’s energy needs, efficiency has reduced America’s energy bill and related carbon emissions by 50% since 1973, he said.

Obama, himself, is worried that declining gas prices may erode support for his aggressive energy agenda. He told Time magazine that lower oil prices make “the politics of it tougher than it might have been six months ago.” http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/the_president-elect_on_his_goals_and_agenda_in_a_time_of_crisis/

We’ll see in the next several weeks if support continues for an overhaul of the nation’s energy portfolio, or if the public follows the wrong star in the sky.

Visit Elisa Wood at www.realenergywriters.com and pick up her free Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

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