Energy Efficiency Can Help Economy

Can energy efficiency be an economic stimulus?

Experts say manufacturing energy-efficient appliances means jobs that can stimulate the economy. (Photo By: GE)

Experts say manufacturing energy-efficient appliances means jobs that can stimulate the economy. (Photo By: GE)

"We're all focused on growing the American economy and making America more competitive. That's what efficiency—that's what energy productivity—is all about," said Gil Quiniones, CEO of the New York Power Authority and chairman of the Alliance to Save Energy.

Speaking at the Alliance's Great Energy Efficiency Day 2017, Quiniones said efficiency is an industry that "supports 2.2 million jobs across the country."

"These are good-paying American jobs. We're talking about manufacturing jobs making high efficiency building materials, appliances and other equipment," said Quiniones.

"Weatherization and construction jobs can make homes and buildings more efficient. Research and development jobs create the next wave of technology and innovation."

Quiniones called it a "growth industry" capable of "creating hundreds of thousands more jobs with smart policies."

And along with jobs, Quiniones sees another benefit of efficiency: It saves consumers and corporations "hundreds of millions of dollars." And that, he said, is "money that can be put right back into the economy."

But another speaker at the Feb. 8 session noted that for small businesses, making efficiency improvements can be challenging.

"Small businesses and the buildings that they're in have largely been left behind," said Adam Procell, CEO of Lime Energy, which helps small businesses become energy efficient.

He said small buildings account for 96 percent of the nation's commercial building stock—about half the square footage—but "these are our least efficient buildings."

A big part of the problem, according to Procell, is that many small businesses lack the capital to make the investment.

"The solutions lie in financing and on-bill repayment with utilities, so they don't have another bill to pay," said Procell. Several electric co-ops already offer on-bill repayment options.

"Getting the utilities involved," he said, "is really important for small business."