Energy-efficiency programs are good for the economy

On my weekly calendar of events I mentioned a meeting this Thursday at the state legislature regarding energy efficiency. I received this press release from the Iowa Environmental Council today and have put two especially important passages in bold:

For Immediate Release:

November 10, 2008

Editors Contact:

Lynn Laws, Communications Director, 515-244-1194, ext 210

Iowa Environmental Council

521 East Locust, Suite 220

Des Moines, Iowa

Winter is inevitable. But big energy bills don't have to be.

Winter is inevitable, but big energy bills don't have to be. On November 13, that's what some Iowa clean energy advocates will be telling members of the Iowa Legislature who sit on an interim committee to study utility-run energy efficiency plans and programs funded with consumer dollars. Clean energy advocates will present ideas for ways utility companies can help more Iowans reduce their winter energy bills.

According the Iowa Utilities Board, investor owned utilities in Iowa have issued press releases advising consumers that natural gas prices are expected to be high during the upcoming winter heating season (November-March). The utilities are estimating that consumers will see a 20 to 30 percent increase in their natural gas bills during the 2008/2009 heating season.

David Osterberg, Iowa Policy Project Director, says this added expense will hit low income Iowans' pocketbooks the hardest. The good news is that this segment of the population could benefit most from utility company energy efficiency programs.

"People may not realize that low-income families, those earning under $20,000, spend 10 percent of their annual income on energy bills. Residents earning over $50,000 only spend 2.4 percent. It is vital to improve and target our energy efficiency programs for low-income Iowans," said Osterberg.

"Cutting back energy usage through energy efficiency not only results in smaller energy bills for consumers, it's cheaper than other strategies when it comes to solving global warming," said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council.

Carrie LaSeur, President of Plains Justice, has also been invited to present to the legislative committee and says utilities should be required to maximize their consumer energy efficiency programs before they are granted approval to build or expand power plants.

"The expense of adding new sources of power - like the proposed coal plant in Marshalltown - is always passed onto the consumer. Utility companies convince community members that building new energy capacity means providing new jobs.  But the truth is that energy efficiency programs create more jobs and save consumers money on their energy bills at the same time," said LaSeur.

Osterberg, Baer and LaSeur are just a few of the experts invited to provide advice for legislators on ...

Thursday, November 13

9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Room 19, State Capitol

*Utility company representatives will be presenting in the morning

*Presentations from the clean energy advocates and others will begin at 1 p.m.

Learn more about what clean energy advocates will be saying to legislators on Thursday...

Call the following individuals for interviews:

Nathaniel Baer, Energy Program Director

Iowa Environmental Council

521 East Locust, Ste 520

Des Moines, IA 50309

515-244-1194, ext 206

Carrie La Seur, President, Plains Justice

100 First Street SW

Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

(319) 362-2120

David Osterberg, Executive Director

Iowa Policy Project

20 E Market St

Iowa City, IA 52245


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Aside from the obvious ethical case for targeting energy-efficiency programs to low-income Iowans, think about the potential impact for the economy as a whole. About two-thirds of our GDP depends on consumer spending. If energy-efficiency programs are able to save people money on utility bills, consumers are likely to spend more money on other things. That is especially true for low-income consumers who may otherwise be forced to cut back on essentials to pay for heat and power.

LaSeur's point is also extremely important. Energy-effiency programs not only create more jobs than building a new power plant, they also save consumers money, which can be spent on other things.

Even if we disregard global warming and all other environmentalist arguments for conserving energy (as opposed to increasing production), there is a strong economic case for moving our public policy in this direction.

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