In PSC’s effort to promote healthy habits among its employees, the first goal is to eat more vegetables. We know veggies are good for us but sometimes we need to be reminded, cajoled, and even incentivized to eat them. Veggies are a little like energy efficiency in this way. We know improving the efficiency of our homes and other buildings is really good for us—individually and as a society—but we often need a little extra push to motivate us to cut our wasteful ways.
Fortunately, in 2008, the state enacted a law that requires utilities to help their customers use less electricity and natural gas through rebates, education, and marketing. In addition to the utility programs, we have affordable financing for energy efficiency available for businesses and homeowners statewide through Michigan Saves. Five reasons why these programs are successful:
- Local Jobs. The business of energy efficiency—conducting energy audits and installing high efficiency appliances, lighting, furnaces, windows—is hard to outsource. So dollars spent on energy efficiency support local jobs. We also have numerous companies based in Michigan that manufacture insulation and other energy efficiency products (Dow, NuWool, Masco, Applegate, and others). And the money saved by businesses and residents (money they aren’t spending on utility bills) is reinvested in the local economy.
- Cost savings. It’s inexpensive. Energy efficiency costs $1.6 cents per kilowatt hour (less than the cost of fuel to generate electricity) and less than 1/5 the price of average renewable energy projects or a new coal plant. For every dollar invested through the utility programs, there is at least $3 in savings according to the MPSC, which oversees these utility programs. Saving energy delays the need for new power plants, thereby saving even more. Families on limited incomes can particularly benefit because utility costs are such a large portion of their monthly expenses.
- Environment. For every unit of natural gas, propane, or electricity saved, we cut air emissions and improve the environment.
- Accountability. The utility programs undergo evaluation and scrutiny to ensure ratepayer dollars are used in a cost-effective manner. There is built-in accountability.
- Potential. Recent studies conducted for the MPSC document the significant untapped energy efficiency potential in the state. We are just scratching the surface. Michiganders spend more on energy than on state taxes, and energy costs continue to climb.
We should build off these successes, and enhance the state’s strategy for increasing energy efficiency.
If you want to learn more, including details on utility rebates and financing, go to your utility’s website and www.michigansaves.org.
MPSC, energy efficiency (Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs—LARA)
By Sally Talberg