TreeHugger has been supportive of incentive programs that give rebates for installing photovoltiac systems, like the ones we covered in San Francisco and Washington State. But we have also noted that the cheapest and easiest source of energy is efficiency and conservation, and agree with Van Jones that "the main piece of technology in the green economy is a caulk gun."
Shari Shapiro at Green Building Law makes the point that perhaps these incentives are not the most efficient investment. She writes:
To date, much of the action in green building legislation has encouraged higher complexity energy efficiency technologies, like tax incentives for photovoltaics. There is nothing wrong with incentivizing solar, but it is not the most efficient use of the first dollar invested in green building.
Better to fix an energy leak than to make electricity to heat or cool it
Instead, green building legislation should include incentives which encourage energy efficiency and conservation measures first, and longer term/higher cost measures later. One regulatory mechanism for achieving this is to require each project seeking government funding to have an energy audit. The audit would identify a suite of energy efficiency and conservation measures to be implemented, and the cost and savings associated with each. The legislature could then tier its incentives to compensate the highest energy v. cost savings as determined by the audit.
It is a good point; why give a subsidy to put on a couple of kilowatts of solar panels when a tenth as much money could be spent on light bulbs, insulation, energy star appliances and a couple of awnings to reduce air conditioning loads? She concludes:
With fewer dollars, both public and private, available due to the economic crisis, we need to maximize the cost/benefit calculus by identifying the most efficient energy saving techniques. In other words, we need to make pink (insulation) the new green.
-which would be a great tag line if it was not promoting only one fiberglass insulation company. More at Green Building Law
UPDATE This post's title is based on Shari Shapiro's post, and in no way is a promotion of Owens Corning Fiberglass. See our earlier post Fiberglass: Is Pink Really Green? where we note some of the problems and worries about glass fiber insulation. We also concluded at the time:
So is Fiberglass green, as Owens Corning advertises? I certainly don't think so; however it is cheap, and properly installed it is safe and inert and fireproof, which are all pretty good things. But calling it green is a stretch of the term as we at TreeHugger know it; there is more to green than just saving energy.
Incentive Programs in TreeHugger:
Solar Energy Incentives Signed Into Law in San Fran, Still Stalled in Senate
Washington State Creates Incentive for Home Solar Power Production
Solar Energy Incentives Approved In San Francisco
More on efficiency in TreeHugger
Beating the Energy Efficiency Paradox (Part I)
Resolve for Energy Efficiency
Efficiency is Crucial to a Green Future