Energy Efficiency Saves Money, Creates Jobs, and Cuts Pollution
Every year, much of the energy the U.S. consumes is wasted through transmission, heat loss and inefficient technology—costing families and businesses money, and leading to increased carbon pollution, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (U.S. DOE).
Energy efficiency cuts down on that waste by reducing the amount of energy required to achieve the same, or an even better, result.
Energy Efficiency Day is an annual event to showcase the benefits of energy efficiency! This collaborative effort, now in its fifth year, includes dozens of energy efficiency groups, companies, government agencies, utilities, and others around the United States sharing tips, tools, and stories to promote the benefits of energy efficiency.
In honor of Energy Efficiency Day 2020, today’s article explores the many benefits of energy efficiency, as well as IREC’s related resources and work.
Energy Efficiency is Crucial to a 100% Clean Energy Future
Energy efficiency has a crucial role to play in achieving our goal of a 100% clean energy future. The benefits are numerous, cross-cutting, and diverse. Energy efficiency reduces energy costs for consumers and saves money, cuts pollution and cleans the air we breathe, creates jobs, makes homes healthier, and reduces the energy burden on low-income households—resulting in greater equity. According to the U.S. DOE, it is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to combat climate change.
There are enormous opportunities for efficiency improvements in every sector of the economy, whether it is buildings, transportation, industry, devices, business processes, or energy generation, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI).
Because IREC works to build the foundation for the rapid adoption of clean energy and energy efficiency to benefit people, the economy, and our planet—energy efficiency is an integral component of IREC’s mission and work.
Energy Efficiency Saves Money
According to Alliance to Save Energy, as the U.S. economy has grown, electricity use has remained constant in recent years because of energy efficiency.
Since 1990, savings from energy efficiency gains have averted the need to build 313 large power plants and have delivered cumulative savings of nearly $790 billion for Americans, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
With energy efficiency measures, the U.S. DOE estimates that the typical household can save an average of 25% on utility bills, amounting to over $2,200 annually!
Energy Efficiency Creates Jobs
Energy efficiency supports more than 2.3 million jobs nationwide, employing 1 in 4 energy workers and more than double the number of workers nationwide compared to fossil fuels, according to a 2019 report from E2.
Unfortunately, this sector has recently been hard hit by job losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. E4TheFuture has highlighted how targeted federal investment in this sector, and other clean energy industries, would be effective in contributing to national economic recovery and job creation.
Energy Efficiency Cuts Pollution
Consuming less energy means reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the environment, making it an essential tool to fight climate change.
According to a 2019 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), energy efficiency can slash US energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by about 50% by 2050, getting us halfway to our national climate goals.
Energy Efficiency Increases Energy Equity
Low-income households experience the highest energy burdens, the proportion of their income they spend on energy. Not only does this mean they may face difficult choices between affording electricity and other basic needs, high energy burdens can also negatively affect health in the long-term. Energy efficiency can lower energy burdens and greatly increase equity.
Rural households, especially those that are low-income, nonwhite, or elderly, spend an average of 40% more of their incomes on energy than their metropolitan counterparts. Energy efficiency upgrades could lessen these energy burdens by as much as 25% and save households more than $400 a year, according to ACEEE.
Energy efficiency upgrades to affordable multifamily homes could yield tens of millions of dollars in utility bill savings for low-income households over the next 20 years, according to Energy Efficiency For All (EEFA). In New York City alone, these kinds of energy efficiency upgrades could save households $22.8 million through 2035.
Energy efficiency is an essential piece of IREC’s work. IREC has numerous innovative resources available, as well as existing and forthcoming projects.
IREC plays a key role in quality assurance for energy efficiency training for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Training Centers through our Credentialing Program, which accredits clean energy training providers and certifies instructors and master trainers.
IREC’s leadership in this area lays a foundation for the clean energy economy through training standards and credentials that foster a high-quality workforce. Our emphasis on industry-validated, credible credentials is a key factor in closing the skills gap between education and industry.
IREC has assisted with energy efficiency professionals’ certifications, including the Home Energy Professionals Energy Auditor and Quality Control Inspector exam development. IREC has also developed energy efficiency training and credentials for apartment maintenance technicians with our partner the National Apartment Association Education Institute, and played a supporting role in the development of the Healthy Home Evaluator micro-credential.
Through a recent three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Office, IREC and its partners are developing an interactive “green building” career map that highlights the breadth of rewarding career opportunities in energy efficiency. The project team is identifying critical, market-valued energy efficiency occupations and career paths that will come to life on the interactive and dynamic career map.
IREC and our project partners will conduct extensive outreach to deliver this exciting new resource in the hands of a large audience of diverse stakeholders who can help foster an inclusive talent pipeline. This outreach will include organizations serving low-income and other vulnerable populations of learners and workers, such as women and minorities as well youth and college-aged job seekers, to raise awareness of energy efficiency career options and increase diversity in this important sector.
The Green Building Career Map can help job seekers visualize their own pathway into a rewarding career in energy efficiency, and in turn, help our country grow the clean energy workforce needed to reach our 100% clean energy goals.
“Raising awareness about the diversity of meaningful career options in the energy efficiency sectors, particularly among diverse and underserved communities, is crucially important,” said IREC President & CEO Larry Sherwood. “Not only will this work help advance a sustainable economy by fostering a pipeline of qualified energy efficiency workers, it will also ensure the benefits of employment in this area are accessible to more people who need them.”
Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) professionals across the country work hard every day to reduce the energy burden of low-income Americans. In partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, IREC recently launched the new Training for WAP Administrative Professionals now available for free at https://wap.litmos.com.
Thousands of professionals in the more than 700 WAP agencies now have access to an innovative new series of interactive online training modules to help them perform their jobs more effectively and increase program quality and impact.
With the collaboration of a national team of WAP subject matter experts, the series of interactive, job-focused e-learning courses is intended to benefit both new and existing WAP professionals. Learners access an online platform that provides suggested pathways to customize the instructional experience and respond to the needs of individuals based on their job responsibilities.
Each short course is about 15 minutes, allowing participants to engage with training as their work schedules allow. All of the courses feature highly interactive learning scenarios, downloadable references, job aids, and knowledge checks that simulate many of the challenges and decisions WAP administrative professionals encounter day-to-day on the job.
The training was developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Weatherization Assistance Program, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
As we work towards a future powered by clean, sustainable energy, energy efficiency must be a key part of the equation. In addition to allowing us to do more with the energy we produce, energy efficiency can help ensure everyone is included in the resulting economic and health benefits of the clean energy transition.
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