WHAT IS NC SAVE$ ENERGY?

NC SAVE$ ENERGY is an initiative by a growing number of organizations to create a statewide, independent (non-utility) energy efficiency program. It will keep savings on energy bills in the hands of residential customers, while serving those who can least afford rising energy costs.                                                         NC SAVE$ ENERGY would create a publicly-managed, independent fund to pay for energy efficiency projects for homes, local government buildings, hospitals, and schools. This program will create good North Carolina jobs, save people money, protect the environment, and ensure healthy, safe homes and buildings across the state.                                                                                        NC SAVE$ ENERGY is based on the experiences of six other states’ cost-effective independent energy efficiency programs.

Energy Efficiency: An Affordable Way to Reduce your Energy Bills, and Make the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Irrelevant!

Multi-billion dollar utilities Dominion and Duke Energy want to build a natural gas pipeline through some of the poorest counties in Eastern, NC, claiming that energy demand is increasing. The truth is that the demand for energy in our state has been pretty flat for years, despite a growing population, because homes, business and industry are implementing more efficiency measures.  In fact, if we had implemented a statewide NC SAVE$ ENERGY independently administered efficiency program as we had tried to in 2007, energy demand would have actually declined. Energy efficiency not only makes it possible to avoid building new natural gas power plants and infrastructure like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, it also makes energy costs for low income households more affordable.

After your rent or mortgage payment; your second highest household cost is usually the energy bill. Energy efficiency measures for homes include: adding more insulation to the walls and ceiling, installing energy efficient windows and doors, and adjusting the temperature indoors a few degrees when you’re not home. In older homes, energy efficiency upgrades can save at least hundreds of dollars a year, and pay for themselves in just a few years.

Homeowner Samella Degraffen Reid had a lot to say about new energy efficiency measures added to her home, which not only saved her money on her electric bill, but also made her home more consistently comfortable. “This upgrade has really made a tremendous amount of difference. You don’t have to walk through rooms where it’s cold there or hot there, because that’s what I used to have to do. But now it’s quite comfortable,” Reid stated in an interview by The Columbus Dispatch. In Reid’s home, the program fixed air leaks, heating and cooling stability, added more insulation, and made her home more resilient to extreme weather related events. Installing a new efficient heat pump, for which homeowners can get loans, can start making a difference after other measures are in place.

Other creative ways to save on your energy bill include switching to motion sensor lights instead of steady outdoor or indoor lighting, and “smart bulbs” that allow adjustment of light levels. Many small appliances have “ghost loads” that continue to draw current even in the 90+% of the time the appliance isn’t used. Unplug them or plug them into a power strip that easily turn off several appliances when not in use.

For those of us working for “energy and climate justice”, and to avoid unnecessary and costly new power plants and infrastructure like the huge new Atlantic Coast Pipeline—or just to save on your utility bill– there’s no more cost- effective home investment you can make!

This blog post incorporates information from articles in The Dispatch, and Benzinga.

 

Summary of an ACEEE Report “Unlocking Ultra-Low Energy Performance in Existing Buildings”

Existing buildings consume about 40% of the energy used today, which is why ensuring these buildings have the appropriate energy efficiency upgrades is important for curbing energy use and reducing emissions. Energy performance is dependent on how the building was constructed and climate, so it varies. Retrofitting existing buildings and homes is also an excellent way to create living wage jobs in rural and isolated communities. Low income families who live in dilapidated homes or mobile homes too often pay an electric bill that is close to the cost of their rent. It is not uncommon for a family living in a home without proper installation to pay upwards of $300-$500 in electricity costs per month.  Providing these families with energy efficiency upgrades not only curbs their electric use, but also saves them money on their bill.

The ACEEE report “Unlocking Ultra-Low Energy Performance in Existing Buildings,” points out that “existing buildings can benefit from the same advances in appliance, equipment, and lighting efficiency,” as new homes do. Retrofitting existing homes can be more costly than incorporating energy efficiency features in new homes, and that is because it requires additional labor to remove existing appliances, and also possible additional repairs, but the long term savings will make up for the additional cost.

Retrofitting is not reaching its true potential in the market, and that is because many residents are not aware of the savings associated with it. Energy efficiency projects on average bring in a 9% rate of return, or about $2,406 in savings each year when you spend $16,657 up front in upgrades on a home. In Vermont, homes with energy efficiency upgrades have the potential to save up to 55% yearly on their electric bills.  Commercial buildings have even more of an energy savings potential. Energy efficiency upgrades can also make a structure more resilient to storms or climate change. Whatever the reason one chooses to retrofit a home or business, the owner will be guaranteed an outcome that will benefit them.

Ericka Faircloth, Water and Energy Justice Organizer for Clean Water for NC, says, “What makes a huge and damaging energy infrastructure project like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline an great injustice is that the same low income communities and communities of color who will get serious impacts from the pipeline and will not be able to move away, will get no benefits from the natural gas, as connections would cost millions of dollars.  In addition, all NC ratepayers would pay for the pipeline through big rate hikes in the coming years, an economic injustice for low income consumers, generally living in older, less efficient housing. In fact, efficiency upgrades for older homes and businesses would create hundreds of permanent jobs and create large energy savings for those who need it most.”

ACEEE report entitled “Unlocking Ultra-Low Energy Performance in Existing Buildings,” accessible here: http://aceee.org/white-paper/unlocking-ule-0717

Energy Efficiency Creates FAR More Jobs Than the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Could

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), a proposed 42 inch high pressure natural gas line planned to run through 8 eastern NC Counties (Northampton, Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson, Cumberland and Robeson), presents serious economic, environmental justice and safety concerns—and all to supposedly meet energy needs for which there are far better solutions. The lead pipeline builders, Dominion Resources and Duke Energy, contend that the ACP is needed in order to supply Eastern NC with its growing energy demand, but there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. While Duke Energy has projected 1.4% growth annually in electricity demand, actual growth has been less than 0.5% and with far more cost effective and job creating energy efficiency spending, that growth could be flattened or gradually reversed.

Natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale is already declining. It’s very likely that natural gas in this shale basin will run out long before the contract with the pipeline company ACP LLC (owned by Duke Energy and Dominion Resources) is completed, meaning that NC and VA electric customers would be stuck paying for a stranded asset on their Duke and Dominion electric bills. The existing Transco Pipeline, which runs past Charlotte and Greensboro, carries more than enough natural gas for NC in the years to come. We need to be working to reduce our fossil fuel consumption to stabilize energy costs and slow climate change.

The ACP would only create 18 permanent jobs in NC!  Energy efficiency has the ability to create thousands of locally based jobs in NC that pay better than a living wage. Even with limited funds available to help drive the market toward energy efficiency, moderate efficiency initiatives would still create between 1,600 – 12,800 jobs statewide, paying between $22,500-45,000. Notablly, energy efficiency also offers good paying jobs in low income rural areas, where jobs are scarce.

Many businesses and homes in NC desperately need energy efficiency upgrades, not just to save energy, but to save money. Each household that participated in the Weatherization Assistance Program in NC saved an average of $173/month on their electric bills. This program aims to add more installations in homes, from insulation to  incorporating energy efficient lightbulbs and windows.

The natural gas needed to fuel proposed gas-fired power plants in NC is already flowing through the existing Transco Pipeline, but even gas powered plants release high levels of methane, a far stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. We should be phasing out ALL uses of fossil fuels, for our health, for our economy and to slow climate change. Energy efficiency will create far more permanent jobs than the ACP, and those jobs will be more evenly spread to rural, low income areas. Instead of building another pipeline, NC must focus on energy efficiency initiatives and renewable power generation to replace fossil fuel plants, a far better plan for our future.

Federal Cuts to Energy Efficiency Deepen Economic Injustice

Federal energy efficiency programs and funding are on the chopping block for budget cuts in 2017 and 2018. Low income folks are more at risk from these budget cuts as HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) will be cut by 6.2 billion dollars, a cut of 13%. Communities will lose funding they need to repair and build affordable homes as funding will be eliminated for the Weatherization Assistance Program and HUD Community Development Block grants. Thousands of skilled construction and weatherization jobs will be eliminated–jobs that provided a living wage to many residents in rural communities.

Rural folks will be severely impacted by budget cuts to important programs, including the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions grants, which helps rural electric co-ops finance energy efficiency and other cost-saving measures for residents they serve. Small business will also lose out on financial help with energy efficiency upgrades as funding for the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development budget will be slashed.

Energy efficiency programs help to save low income residents money, and provide respectable, permanent jobs to local workers. Please join NC SAVE$ ENERGY to advocate for protecting critical energy efficiency funding!  Contact your Congressional Representative today, and tell them that you don’t agree with the budget cuts that will impact energy efficiency programs!  Use this to find your Representative’s contact info: (http://whoismyrepresentative.com/)

This information is based on a blog post by ACEEE (American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy), linked here: http://aceee.org/blog/2017/03/energy-efficiency-budget-cuts-could.  ACEEE is a nonprofit organization that focuses on advancing energy efficiency policies, programs and technologies.

 

We are revitalizing the NC SAVE$ ENERGY Alliance to advocate for protecting and restoring funding and programs for the most cost-effective, job-creating and environmentally just energy spending of all—ENERGY EFFICIENCY for homes, institutional buildings and businesses!

 

Energy Efficiency: The Investment for Future Jobs and our Climate

Energy efficiency is far and away the most cost-effective and job creating way to free up energy resources that would otherwise be wasted. There is a mad dash going on to build natural gas pipelines in order for utilities and pipeline companies to cash in on up to a 14% rate of return allowed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for pipeline projects. This rush to build is apparently responsible for more incidents on recently built pipelines on average than those built before 1940!

About 40% of our energy is wasted simply in the use of fossil fuels, made worse by the relatively low efficiency (typically about 35%) of electric generating plants that depend on coal, oil or natural gas. Relying solely on renewable energy, we’d be far more efficient than using natural gas as a “bridge fuel.” Gas extraction and pipelines releases large quantities of methane which contributes more powerfully than carbon dioxide to climate change, especially in the near term. This means the time to switch directly to efficient lighting, heating and other uses and to renewable energy is now! Building pipelines only interferes with investments in cost-effective, job creating renewables and infrastructure.