Energy efficiency: The hidden hand in the fight against climate change
By Ted Trabue, opinion contributor October 5, 2017
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
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The danger and destruction of three high-category hurricanes within a week of each other on one side of the country, while wildfires and heatwaves racked the west coast should have woken up the United States — Climate change is real and the risks are growing.
Seeing the devastation of those affected by extreme weather amplified by climate change leaves many of us angry and helpless. It also makes the recent regressive steps taken to continue our nation’s climate-changing fossil fuel addiction all the more frustrating. At the same time, it inspires my work as a leader of an organization that is helping D.C. stay focused on energy solutions.
On October 5, we celebrate the second annual Energy Efficiency Day. Energy efficiency is not the most exciting way to reduce fossil fuel pollution, but it is the easiest. Energy not used reduces carbon emissions, while saving residents money. It also lets us redirect public resources to other causes like health care and public housing and local jobs. Less pollution, more savings — what’s not to like?
We at the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) are supporting Energy Efficiency Day as a collaborative effort of scores of organizations, companies and government agencies to spotlight the best ways to manage the District’s energy demand. Our message is simple: Save energy, save money, reduce emissions. Lightbulb for lightbulb.
In partnership with the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), the DCSEU was born in 2011 with a mission to reduce the city’s energy use — and with it, pollution. That’s what we’ve done. Over the past six years, the DCSEU has prevented lifetime emissions of more than 3 million tons of CO2. This is equivalent to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 3 billion pounds of coal burned or more than 670,000 passenger vehicles driven for one year. Fewer greenhouse gasses means less warming, which reduces the risks from extreme weather events worsened by warming.
D.C. faces a particular energy struggle: About 900 people move to the city every month — with population growth surging, energy demand is soaring. But we don’t have our own power plants. Nearby states generate most of D.C.’s electricity, and fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas account for 60 percent of that mix.
At the DCSEU we focus on energy efficiency because we know that it’s helping the District become more energy self-sufficient while creating new economic opportunities for District residents. Our rebate program makes energy efficient lighting and appliances more affordable and is part of our support for a more equitable energy future.
Our Workforce Development Program is one way we are building this future, by training underemployed, unemployed and other job-seeking D.C. residents so they have the skills for the ever-growing green jobs market. Since 2011, we have helped the District, its residents, and businesses save half-a-billion dollars on their energy bills. And we are not done yet.
But how can energy efficiency help you combat climate change by reducing your own carbon footprint? The answer is easy. You can start by switching your old incandescent or CFL lightbulbs to LED’s, which use 75 percent less energy. Buying a new washing machine? Consider picking one that’s ENERGY STAR-certified, which means it will deliver the same results as a standard washer — clean clothes — but will require 45 percent less water and 25 percent less energy. And it will show on your utility bills. Thanks to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Appliance and Equipment Standards Program. By 2020, a typical family with new appliances will be able to save an average of $500 per year. The total savings are estimated to accumulate to $64 billion annually as appliances become more efficient.
While cities have become the main drivers in the transformation of the energy economy, everyone can take action. Today, I am asking you to reconsider your environment in a new light — whether home or business — and think about their energy choices. Small steps will translate into a larger transformation, lightbulb for lightbulb.
Ted Trabue is the managing director of the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility.