Overcoming the dirty secret of clean energy

June 13, 2008
By Elisa Wood June 12, 2008 A dirty secret of clean energy is that being green can be an expensive pursuit. The cost of solar panels and hybrid cars is declining, but they remain too expensive for many people. As a result, the green energy movement is often viewed as an upper-income trend in the […]

By Elisa Wood

June 12, 2008

A dirty secret of clean energy is that being green can be an expensive pursuit. The cost of solar panels and hybrid cars is declining, but they remain too expensive for many people. As a result, the green energy movement is often viewed as an upper-income trend in the United States.

But a recent survey indicates energy efficiency may be a more egalitarian product.

The intent of “The 2008 Energy Costs Survey,” released this week by the Energy Programs Consortium and the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, is to show the sacrifices made by low, moderate, and middle-income households because of rising energy costs. Households are cutting back on food, medicine, clothing, heating and cooling, education and eating out. And they are paying their bills later, according to survey of more than 500 households in May. http://www.neada.org/

But, the data also reveals an interesting phenomenon about energy efficiency. Even low-income earners invest in appliances and home improvements that reduce energy costs.

In fact, those in the lowest income bracket were most likely to purchase an efficient air conditioner. Eighteen percent of the lowest income households made such purchases compared to 13-14% of those with middle and moderate incomes. Poor households edged close to wealthier ones when it came to installing efficient heating (11% compared with 15% of those richer). In purchasing efficiency appliances, 15% of low-income households reported doing so.

Having 11% to 18% of low-income households invest in EE may not sound like a lot. But compare it to how much solar energy we consume. Only 1% of the electric power used last year in the United States came from solar energy, according to the federal Energy Information Administration — and that includes business use http://www.eia.doe.gov/fuelrenewable.html.

If 11% of households installed solar panels, renewable energy advocates would be ecstatic and many of our energy woes would ease. Clean energy advocates often lament how hard it is to bring renewable energy to the mass market. This is a problem efficiency products do not appear to face. It is easy and not overly expensive to become an EE consumer. This is one reason why EE advocates may be right when they say the efficiency explosion ramping up in the US will easily dwarf any other energy trend.

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

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

LinkedIn: Elisa Wood

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