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Yes, clean energy can save you money

January 5, 2012 | 12:10 pm | , Solutions Analyst

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts to give you the facts about clean energy. Click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

© 2007 Flickr/Chris Nygaard CC CC BY 2.0

Here’s the plain and simple fact – clean energy technology can actually save you money. Chances are you know this, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there – so here’s a quick fact check for when you hear claims that clean energy isn’t worth the cost.

I’m going to start with the easy stuff – energy efficiency. Experts have long said that ignoring energy efficiency is like walking on a sidewalk littered with cash and waving away money that’s yours for the taking. Even though energy efficiency is such a clunky term, it’s actually a really cool concept — doing all the same things you’re currently doing and enjoying all the comforts you currently have (heating, cooling, lighting, power etc.) but with less energy. There’s nothing to give up, except for a chunk of your electricity bill. Hey – I’ll take a double serving of that, please!

When I talk about energy efficiency, I don’t mean turning off the lights. Sure, it’s common sense to turn off appliances when you don’t need them, but energy efficiency does not mean using gadgets, appliances, equipment, and household heating or cooling systems less – it means using them smarter.

I don’t just mean you have to buy fancy new light bulbs, either. There is a whole universe of energy-efficient appliances and equipment like refrigerators, televisions, air conditioners, boilers and others that are designed to deliver “the same bang with less buck.” And certain building components (like insulation, double-paned windows, etc.) ensure that outside temperatures have less influence on indoor temperatures, meaning you’ll need less energy to cool your home in summer or heat it in winter.

But to purchase energy-efficient products, first you have to pay more upfront, right? Well, most often, the slight extra cost of these improvements is offset very quickly by money saved on one’s energy bill. One analysis estimates that the additional cost of an Energy Star refrigerator is recouped in just two years, meaning years of savings after the two-year “payback period.” Similarly, savings from lower energy bills can help pay back the additional cost of certain energy-efficient water heating systems within as short a period as eighteen months.

That said, money is tight for everyone these days. What if you just can’t afford the initial purchase? Government rebates on Energy Star products may be able to help lower costs. As of June 2011, rebates worth $246 million were given out to 1.6 million consumers. There are several incentives for businesses too. Here’s a full list of federal incentives that help make energy efficiency cheaper.

The bottom line is that energy efficiency saves money – for both consumers and businesses. That’s what Pennsylvania realized recently, when a new report by Optimal Energy confirmed that its 2008 energy efficiency law is saving families and businesses $278 million a year, has created 40,000 full-time jobs a year, and saved over 2000 gigawatt-hours. What is the impact of this law on the climate? A reduction of 23 million tons of carbon pollution over the lifetime of energy efficiency measures put into place, which is the same as taking 4 million cars off the road every year. Now can you imagine how much difference could be made if every U.S. state did something similar? Or every country around the world? Whoa.

It’s worth repeating: Yes, you can save money through energy efficiency (and renewable energy, which I’ll talk about in the next post). Right after the holiday season, when we all typically stretch our budgets and spend more on gifts and celebrations, isn’t the thought of a little extra savings nice? Saving money is going to be on my list of resolutions for 2012, and so is the adoption of more energy efficient practices. Let me know if you’ll join me with your own clean energy resolution!

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