Trish Demeter, October 5, 2018
Today marks the annual effort to promote energy efficiency — called EEDay2018 — and all the tremendous benefits it delivers in terms of jobs, lower air emissions, and more money in people’s pockets. Ohio is making great strides to reap these benefits, but we’re also stumbling due to barriers holding back our full potential to cut down on wasted energy in our electric system.
Here at the OEC, we view energy efficiency as the cleanest energy resource around, because it’s simply energy that’s not wasted. Think about it: if my highly-efficient washing machine is able to get out the caked-in mud on my kid’s soccer socks just as well as an older, less efficient washer, then that coal-fired power plant along the Ohio River doesn’t have to fire up as much.
According to a report released earlier this year, Powering Ohio: A Vision for Growth and Innovative Energy Investment, approximately 58% of Ohio’s energy consumption is wasted or lost in the form of heat energy, or in the transmission of electricity over miles and miles of wires. We can do so much better.
The good news is Ohio’s workforce is already deeply steeped in the business of energy efficiency. A great organization, E4theFuture, keeps state-by-state stats on efficiency jobs, and Ohio ranks in the top ten with just over 79,000 Ohioans employed in the efficiency sector.
What is an energy efficiency job? It is a broad range of professions including HVAC and insulation installers, mechanical engineers, factory workers assembling high-efficiency appliances such as washers and freezers, as well as skilled electricians specializing in advanced lighting systems.
Ohio-based businesses and labor unions lead, too. For example, the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Transportation Workers Local 33 (SMART) union and the Cleveland chapter of Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) have partnered up to promote efficiency job training in Northeast Ohio. SMART Local 33 has a state-of-the-art training center in Parma, where apprentices engage in hands-on training, and the facility is one of only five labs of its kind in North America.
State policies are incredibly important to the achievement of efficiency, and this is especially true when it comes to Ohio’s energy efficiency resource standard (EERS). It, along with the state’s renewable portfolio standard — collectively, the clean energy standards — serve as the underpinning of Ohio’s strategy to cut carbon emissions. For example, just one utility’s efficiency programs, AEP Ohio, has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 3.4 million tons since 2009. This is the equivalent of avoiding burning enough coal to fill 18,559 rail cars.
Sadly, the EERS has suffered some blows over the years due to legislative law changes and anti-efficiency decisions made at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. In 2014, the EERS was frozen for two years by the Ohio General Assembly, and permanent law changes watered the standard down by expanding definitions of what can qualify as energy efficiency for the purpose of a utility posting their compliance with the standard. In the same piece of legislation, special exemptions were created for big corporations allowing them to opt-out of utility-run efficiency programs.
Then, in 2017, after the standards went back into effect, the PUCO ordered arbitrary limits on how much utilities could invest in efficiency programs, no matter how cost-effective those programs were for customers. All these seemingly small changes are compounding on each other, and having the effect of diminishing opportunities to cut energy waste, save Ohioans money on their energy bills, and spur job creation.
Still yet this year, we may see even more bad legislative proposals that could undermine efficiency opportunities in Ohio, namely with the pending House Bill 114 in the Ohio Senate. This bill would waylay more damage, and so we’re prepared to fight hard to block any attempts to further hobble Ohio’s EERS.
There is still a long way to go before Ohio removes barriers to energy efficiency and closes the gap on our wasteful practices. But, we’ve made great strides and the OEC is working toward a cleaner future!