What’s not to like about energy efficiency? It saves consumers money, supports millions of jobs, encourages businesses to innovate, and benefits the environment. In fact, becoming more energy efficient is the cheapest and fastest way to cut energy bills and carbon pollution.
Yet while energy efficiency—also known as optimizing our energy use or not wasting energy—is one of America’s most successful energy policies, it faces an unprecedented threat from President Trump and some fellow Republicans in Congress.
True, any policies that smack of “clean” (air, water, energy) are under threat in the Trump era. What makes the multi-front assault on energy efficiency surprising is that it could dismantle programs—such as ENERGY STAR®—that have long enjoyed support not only from both sides of the aisle, but also the private sector and the public at large. More than three-quarters of Trump supporters expressed support in a 2016 post-election survey for policies that require manufacturers to make appliances and equipment more energy efficient.
The reasons energy efficiency is popular are clear and well-documented:
- Consumers can’t tell from looking at an appliance or piece of equipment whether it’s an energy hog. But setting minimum energy-efficiency standards for the products in our homes and businesses ensures they don’t needlessly waste energy.
- Energy efficiency in our homes and businesses helps the environment. By reducing the need for electricity, we also avoid having to burn pollution-emitting fossil fuels to generate it. Thanks to the appliance standards program that began in 1987, efficiency will help avoid 7 billion metric tons of carbon pollution from power plants by 2030, alone.
- Efficiency saves consumers money—standards for appliances and equipment will have saved American homes and businesses nearly $2.4 trillion on utility bills through 2035. On top of that, improving our building energy codes supports more energy efficient new buildings through things like tighter windows and more insulation, saving billions more over the life of the structure.
- Energy efficiency produces good return on taxpayer money—$12 billion invested by the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) in research and development has yielded an estimated U.S. net economic benefit of more than $230 billion (an annual return on investment of more than 20 percent).
- Efficiency standards help keep U.S. industry competitive—manufacturers prefer a single federal standard that is technology-neutral, enabling them to innovative however they want to comply and protect against less efficient products.
- Efficiency standards support U.S. jobs—standards helped generate about 340,000 jobs by the end of 2010 and could create about 100,000 more by 2030, according to an analysis. Overall, more there are more than 2.2 million jobs connected to energy efficiency.
Not one to let facts get in the way of polluter-first policy, Trump is threatening to eliminate or significantly scale back a wide range of energy efficiency programs—through budget cuts and regulatory maneuvers. And the Republican-controlled Congress is considering a range of additional attacks.
Here’s what’s at risk:
The Trump administration’s proposed FY18 Budget would slash funding for a range of energy efficiency programs—and eliminate a number of them altogether. In fact, energy efficiency—the quickest and most cost-effective way to lower our bills and cut pollution—takes an almost 80 percent cut.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Budget cuts proposed to a wide range of clean energy programs, including ENERGY STAR:
Benefit: The world-renowned voluntary public-private partnership program, whose blue and white label identifies the most energy-efficient products on the market, has helped consumers save $362 billion on their utility bills since 1992 while reducing climate-altering pollution.
WaterSense is a voluntary program to help consumers and businesses cut water use, similar to ENERGY STAR.
Benefit: Designed to direct consumers to more water-efficient products.
Budget cuts proposed to clean energy programs, including a 45 percent reduction for applied research programs.
Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE)
Benefit: Plays a critical role in saving businesses and families billions of dollars, developing the U.S. clean energy sector, and reducing pollution. It also produces a significant return on taxpayer investment. Independent evaluations have assessed one-third of EERE’s research and development portfolio to date and found the $12 billion invested in over a period of many years has already yielded an estimated U.S. net economic benefit of more than $230 billion (an annual return on investment of more than 20 percent).
Threat: Nearly 70 percent cut
Weatherization Assistance to States
Benefit: The DOE provides grants ($250 million in 2016) to states, territories, and some Native American communities to improve the energy efficiency of the homes of low-income families. More than 7 million families have benefited since the program began, with an average annual energy cost savings of more than $280.
State Energy Programs
Benefit: States rely on the DOE for funding ($50 Million in 2016) and technical expertise to meet their individual energy-related goals and reduce energy costs for their citizens. For every $1 of investment the federal government provides to the State Energy Programs, $7.23 is saved from reduced energy bill ($256 million nationwide annually). In addition, every $50 million in SEP funding leads to $585 million in economic development.
Loan Program Office
Benefit: The DOE’s Loan Program Office (LPO) plays a critical role in ensuring the innovative technologies developed at national labs achieve commercial success in the marketplace. There is a clear, well-documented “valley of death” between R&D phases and private company-supported, commercial success. The first commercial scale projects of new, innovative technologies often face barriers obtaining commercial loans and financing, which LPO helps address. In total, the 30 projects in LPO’s portfolio have resulted in more than $50 billion in project investment.
Advanced Research Projects Administration-Energy (ARPA-E)
Benefit: ARPA-E supports the development and financing of innovative new energy technologies that will create a more secure, affordable, and sustainable American energy future. Since its official start in 2009, ARPA-E has provided over $1.3 million in grants and funding to more than 475 projects across the nation. In turn, these projects have created over 30 new U.S. companies and attracted more than $1.25 billion in new, private-sector funding. Sixty of the projects have also partnered with other government agencies, such as the Department of the Navy, to further advance the nation’s security and economic prosperity.
National Labs (Oak Ridge National Lab, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory)
Benefit: Experts at these powerhouses of science and technology developed LED lights that use a fraction of the energy of incandescent bulbs, efficient compressors for refrigerators that saved consumers $6 billion in energy costs through the 1990s, and many other technologies that now enrich our everyday lives. These energy efficiency labs support the agency in analysis and testing critical to setting cost-effective minimum efficiency standards.
Threat: 17 percent cut
The Trump administration has delayed energy-efficiency standards and signed executive orders that could imperil programs. Meanwhile, they also face a range of threats from Congress, in the form of repeals or even a more fundamental overhaul of standard setting.
Find out more information on threats to such policies as energy efficiency.