Energy efficiency: A fast, cheap way to a cleaner, healthier Ohio. A job creator, too.

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Energy efficiency is the fastest and cheapest way to protect our health, environment and economy from the dangerous effects of climate change.

That's why NRDC recently joined businesses, trade associations and non-profits in a letter asking Ohio Governor John Kasich and other state leaders to aggressively act to promote smarter energy use.

It has become even more urgent now that the U.S. Supreme Court has held up the federal Clean Power Plan limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. While we are confident that the plan will overcome legal challenges, opportunities abound for carbon-intensive Ohio to build on the significant progress it has already made in cutting carbon pollution while saving consumers money and creating jobs.

According to our letter, a few common efficiency policies, such as updating building energy codes and increasing the use of combined heat and power, would save Ohioans nearly $7.5 billion in electricity costs, avoid 22.4 million tons of carbon pollution and reduce thousands of tons of other harmful emissions.

Signing the letter was a diverse group that ranged from Ohio companies like Dow Chemical, Owens Corning and Schneider Electric, national groups like the American Chemistry Council, National Association of Energy Service Companies, and National Electrical Contractors Association, to the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs.

Similar letters were sent to 33 other governors to highlight the strong support for smarter energy use, especially from the business community, and underscore the opportunities for states to use efficiency to reduce harmful pollution and grow their economies at the same time.

Ohio already has made big strides in saving consumers money through efficiency programs such as insulating homes and offering rebates for purchase of more energy-efficient appliances. But the state--whose reliance on coal makes its power plants among the largest emitters of carbon pollution of all state generation fleets--can do much more.

Among the actions Ohio leaders should take: opt into the EPA's Clean Energy Incentive Program, which will reward states for early investments in energy efficiency and clean energy measures; and increase the use of combined heat and power, where electricity and heat are generated from a single source.The state also should step up efforts to reduce energy use inside homes and commercial buildings, including upgrading energy building codes, offering property tax exemptions for energy-efficient projects, and encouraging the use of energy savings performance contracts to upgrade large buildings.

Implementing these measures will put Ohio far down the road to meeting its 2030 carbon-reduction targets under the Clean Power Plan. And strong state action now will reduce the cost of reducing carbon emissions when they eventually come due after the plan is upheld in the courts.

While Ohio's energy efficiency programs have saved consumers more than $1.5 billion, a huge untapped potential remains to further cut electricity costs while reducing pollution and generating jobs. An NRDC analysis showed that ramping up efficiency in Ohio would create 8,600 efficiency jobs alone and save businesses and residents $903 million on energy bills in 2020.

In spite of its proven benefits, energy efficiency and clean energy have faced resistance in Ohio.

In 2014, the Ohio legislature passed and Kasich signed legislation freezing for two years its energy efficiency and renewable energy standards, even though it was delivering significant benefits to Ohioans.

But late last year, the governor called a continued freeze ``unacceptable.'' More recently, he's declared: ``We need to drive efficiency in this country.''

It's time to for the state to step up its efforts.The longer we wait, the harder it will be for Ohioans to fully realize the benefits that energy efficiency offers to their pocketbooks, their health, their environment and the state's economy.

Let's get to work.