Of all the strategies for reducing global warming emissions from the Southeast’s power industry, ramping up investment in energy efficiency is the least costly and most readily available option. SELC’s advocacy before state legislators and public service commissions has spurred power companies to invest in energy-saving programs that were virtually nonexistent in our region less than decade ago. These programs offer incentives to help customers reduce electricity use by, for example, upgrading heating and cooling systems, replacing old appliances, or weatherizing homes and workplaces.
The results can be seen in data that Duke Energy Carolinas used last year to support its application for an efficiency rate rider in South Carolina. Over four years, the company achieved total energy savings of more than 1,800 gigawatt hours of electricity, and at far less cost than anticipated. In Virginia, our advocacy has encouraged Dominion Virginia Power to invest in 13 residential and commercial energy efficiency programs over the last five years. In March, we will appear before the State Corporation Commission on Dominion’s application for three more programs, and in May, we will do the same for the first set of efficiency programs ever proposed by Appalachian Power—six in all.
There is still more to do. In a letter to the editor in the Washington Post, SELC's Virginia Office Director, Cale Jaffe, highlighted the benefits of energy efficiency in light of EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan:
The EPA’s plan is poised to save Virginia families money on their utility bills and create industries in the state. Our office’s analysis of federal data, compiled by the research firm ICF International, shows that electricity bills could fall by 8 percent over the next 15 years, thanks in large part to savings from energy-efficiency programs.
Virginia will see gains in efficiency because it’s the low-hanging fruit. The online publication WalletHub ranks Virginia 35th out of 48 states analyzed in home-related energy efficiency. Ending that waste would not just be great for consumers; it would also be a boon to job-seekers. Retrofitting existing buildings, to give one example, saves money, reduces carbon pollution and creates jobs that cannot be outsourced.