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Bruce Speight,
WISPIRG Foundation

New Report Details Economic Stimulus Potential of Green Buildings and Energy Efficiency

Madison, WI—Aggressive energy saving policies would provide for ongoing economic stimulus, saving consumers money, creating jobs and driving Wisconsin’s economy, according to a new report released today by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG).

The report – The Power of Efficiency: Opportunities to Save Money, Reduce Pollution, and Expand the Economy in the Midwest – details how existing energy efficiency technologies, practices, and policies would stimulate our economy through saving Wisconsin families hundreds of dollars off rising utility bills, while also reducing harmful air and global warming pollutants.

In releasing the report, WISPIRG urged the state to heed the recommendation of the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming that Wisconsin “not wait for the Task Force’s Final Report” to “adopt and achieve aggressive goals to reduce energy consumption.”

“As our economy slows, our power and heating bills rise, and global warming pollution builds, it is imperative that Wisconsin become as energy efficient as possible,” said Bruce Speight, Advocate with WISPIRG. “Increased energy efficiency puts hundreds of dollars per year into the pockets of Wisconsin families from utility bill savings, stimulating our sagging economy. Decreased demand for energy lowers energy prices. Reduced power consumption lowers the mercury, smog, and global warming pollution emitted by our power plants.”

"Cost-effective energy efficiency should be the first resource that we use to reduce future energy and environmental costs and to avoid the disruption in our communities from building new large scale facilities that could have been avoided or deferred." said George Edgar, Director of Policy for the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation.

The report outlines efficiency opportunities in three Midwestern states—Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. Detailed in the report are vast opportunities for increased efficiency in residential, commercial and industrial construction, retrofits of existing heating, cooling and lighting systems, and replacing inefficient appliances.  For example:

    • Simply requiring all new residential furnaces to be 20% more efficient in Wisconsin would, by 2020, save 500 gigawatt-hours of electricity and 2.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas annually—enough to supply more than 33,000 homes;

    • Retrofitting lighting systems in commercial buildings and institutions to reduce electricity use for lighting by 40 percent could save 3,600 gigawatt-hours of electricity every year in Wisconsin, or about 5 percent of current statewide electricity consumption;

    • Saving energy leads to lower energy prices. For example, if Midwestern states reduced natural gas consumption by 1 percent per year for five years through energy efficiency, wholesale natural gas prices would decline by as much as 13%.

Moreover, such measures would directly translate into savings for consumers and businesses. For example, if every household in Wisconsin replaced five incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, Wisconsin consumers would save $800 million on electricity and maintenance costs over the life of the bulbs.

“Beloit Memorial hospital has been able to take advantage of energy savings through implementing new programs using high efficiency systems,” said Rob Pavlik, Director of Facilities at Beloit Memorial Hospital.  “As a result of these programs, the hospital has been able to reduce natural gas consumption from 677,561 therms in 2006 to 550,991 therms in 2007, and we’ve saved roughly $100,000 a year on our energy bills.”

Money saved through programs can then be spent on other goods and services, creating jobs and stimulating the economy. In 2001, researchers at the University of Illinois calculated that an energy efficiency package aimed at reducing regional electricity consumption 28 percent by 2020 would create 7,400 jobs and increase Wisconsin’s economic output by $2.7 billion.

“With our economy stuck in reverse, it is imperative that we take full advantage of the energy we already produce,” said Speight. “Getting more bang for our buck means more bucks in our pockets—money ready to be spent on goods and services produced right here in Wisconsin.”

While Wisconsin is capturing many energy efficiency opportunities through Focus on Energy, many other potential savings measures remain untapped.

"The potential for energy savings and consequently cost savings in homes and businesses is tremendous," said Jeff Knutson, a qualified contractor for the Focus On Energy Program and President of A-A Exteriors.com in Waupaca, WI. "By working with homeowners and business owners to make their building more air-tight, I am able to guarantee a 20% return on their investment by reducing their energy bills.”

“Whether you’re an economist or an environmentalist, vastly improved energy efficiency is a solution we can all agree on,” added Speight. “We hope that the findings of this report will compel lawmakers to take advantage of the opportunities to capture these benefits.”

WISPIRG urged adoption of several policy tools to achieve energy savings, including:

    • Setting ambitious energy efficiency savings targets of 2 percent per year for electricity consumption and 1 percent per year for natural gas consumption;

    • Set strong energy efficiency standards for household and commercial appliances inadequately covered by federal policy;

    • Strengthen building energy codes; and

    • Eliminate obstacles to the use of combined heat and power, which would dramatically expand opportunities for industrial and commercial energy efficiency.

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