More energy efficiency can help New Yorkers create new good clean energy jobs, enjoy better health, and save billions, as a NRDC fact sheet published today shows. With Governor Cuomo promising to release a “comprehensive and far-reaching energy efficiency initiative by Earth Day, April 22,” it’s important to understand what’s at stake.
Ramping up energy efficiency programs is essential to meeting New York’s clean energy goals including achieving 50 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources (such as wind and solar) and closing the Indian Point nuclear plant without increasing carbon emissions. For instance, the plan for generating enough electricity from wind and solar by 2030 depends on the assumption that the state’s energy demand will decrease as a result of energy efficiency. This is because if New York used less energy, then less new generation would need to be built to meet 50 percent of electricity needs than if the demand remained constant at today’s levels. Governor Cuomo’s announcement of a revamped energy efficiency target can help ensure that New York stays on the right trajectory towards meeting these climate and clean energy goals.
The fact sheet released today highlights the findings of several published studies that describe the many benefits of increased energy efficiency. By adopting a bold and pioneering new energy efficiency initiative, Governor Cuomo can ensure New Yorkers enjoy all of them, which will improve the economy and clean our air.
Here are some of the publication’s highlights:
Energy efficiency creates thousands of jobs
Energy efficiency is already the leading source of clean energy jobs in New York State. In 2016, according to the latest data available, 110,582 New Yorkers worked in the energy efficiency industry, performing research, manufacturing, installation, and other tasks. Meanwhile, there were only 4,066 jobs in the natural gas sector and 711 jobs in the oil and other fossil fuels sectors. An expanded efficiency sector can create more competition and innovation for efficiency products and services, providing new opportunities to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Robust energy efficiency improves public health
When we don’t need as much electricity to run our homes and businesses, that helps avoid the need to use fossil fuels to generate it. Requiring utilities to set goals and achieve targets that save more energy will reduce the amount of fossil fuels that will need to be burned, particularly from heavily polluting fossil fuel peaker plants (which are designed to run when electricity demand is highest). These plants burn both oil and gas, contributing to higher levels of air pollution that can aggravate asthma attacks and other serious health problems.
A recent report demonstrated that energy efficiency’s estimated health benefits are higher for New York City than for any other U.S. city (as measured by avoided healthcare costs) and second-highest for New York among the states. Investing in energy efficiency and reducing the need to burn fossil fuels will especially benefit the health of the families who live closest to the dirtiest power plants and are therefore disproportionately affected by diseases caused by air pollution.
In New York, over 1.7 million New York households (which account for 21 percent of the state’s housing stock) live in affordable multifamily buildings. Energy efficiency upgrades to these buildings can improve air quality, create healthier environments, and decrease the burden of energy bills.
Energy efficiency saves customers money
Modeling by Synapse Energy Economics shows that increasing New York’s utility efficiency goal to equal 3 percent of their sales annually, beginning in 2020, could save customers more than $3 billion on their energy bills in just 12 years. Synapse estimates that under such a scenario, every additional dollar spent by New York electric utilities on energy efficiency programs would produce $1.65 in benefits to the system and reduce New York’s electricity needs by 20 percent.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that includes New York provides an excellent example of the benefits that investing in smarter energy use can have on economic growth. For instance, in 2015 alone, 64 percent of RGGI revenues were invested specifically into energy efficiency programs. These 2015 investments saved customers in the nine states, including New York, $65.9 million on energy bills annually and are projected to save $1.3 billion over the lifetime of the investments.
Establishing a strong utility role is important
A comprehensive state energy efficiency portfolio will include many components including stronger appliance efficiency standards, building energy codes that require more efficient design and construction, and will combine and amplify the impact of efforts from several state agencies. A particularly important part of the solution is requiring and enabling the state’s utilities to expand energy-saving programs.
However, as shown by recent lackluster proposals, utilities won’t achieve the level of energy efficiency savings needed to meet New York’s policy vision unless there is clear direction requiring them to do more. By setting well-defined rules and adopting a centralized planning process that incentivizes utilities to set strong energy-saving targets that will achieve higher levels of efficiency annually, New York State can stay on track to maintain its status as leader in clean energy.
As cited in this fact sheet, New Yorkers have much to gain through energy efficiency. Governor Cuomo has a great opportunity to help New Yorkers realize those benefits, by adopting a nation-leading energy efficiency initiative.