Guest Post, courtesy of Marian Hopkins, with Business Roundtable
Speaking at a Home Depot in Alexandria, Virginia this month, President Obama introduced our nation to a new concept: energy efficiency can be more than just about saving money and common sense - it can be "sexy" as well.
While acknowledging that efficiency - specifically, insulation - had a less than glamorous reputation, Obama remarked, "Someone said insulation is not very sexy. I disagree...Here's what's sexy about it: saving money."
President Obama's right. With the winter months upon us, families and businesses are bracing for the annual spike in energy costs. Whether it's turning up the thermostat or flipping on Christmas lights, the winter months can be among the most energy-intensive - and costliest - for American families and businesses.
Yet, as our leaders return from climate talks in Copenhagen, we are reminded of the extraordinary potential energy efficiency holds for curtailing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy security and, of course, lowering energy costs. In fact, efficiency is one of the cheapest and most effective climate tools at our nation's disposal. A White House report published in October estimated that existing techniques and technologies in energy efficiency retrofitting could reduce home energy use by up to 40 percent. Building improvements could also lower associated greenhouse gas emissions by up to 160 million metric tons each year by 2020, potentially reducing home energy bills in the U.S. by $21 billion annually.
This makes sense when you consider that residential and commercial buildings account for about 40 percent of all the energy we use each year, making this sector our nation's largest energy consumer. That's why, as we outlined in a recent report, Unfinished Business: The Missing Elements of a Sustainable Energy and Climate Policy, when constructing new buildings, it's vital that we go above and beyond existing energy codes to achieve maximum efficiency. It's also imperative that policymakers develop policies that can help our nation realize efficiency gains in existing residential and commercial buildings. In the industrial sector, for example, combined heat and power technologies can significantly improve efficiency. Enhancing the use of combined heat and power from 9 percent of our electricity supply to just 20 percent could eliminate approximately 60 percent of the growth in U.S. emissions.
President Obama recently unveiled some interesting new efficiency proposals for homeowners such as the unique Cash-for-Caulkers program. Cash-for-Caulkers would incentivize Americans to add insulation, replace outdated heating and cooling appliances and seal drafty doors and windows in their homes. That's in addition to the existing energy tax rebate program, which offers homeowners up to $1,500 in tax credits to pay for energy efficiency improvements made during 2009 and 2010. These rebates could provide billions of dollars to speed the weatherization of homes in low-income neighborhoods.
Increased energy efficiency presents clear opportunities to increase energy security, reduce emissions and - most importantly for U.S. families and businesses - save money. So why not weatherize your home this winter? It's a simple, affordable - and certainly sexy - way to ring in the holidays.