Reducing Energy Use: There’s A Lot to Gain
In the energy industry, people are often the last, and yet most obvious, consideration made when designing programs targeted at reducing energy use. There is often little to no discussion of what results from reduced energy costs and improved air quality for people, or even the greater benefit it has for families on a limited income.
At Elevate Energy, we know that our work does more than generate therm or kWh savings—it benefits people, and we don’t think that’s being valued enough. Our research team has analyzed the non-energy benefits of energy efficiency to explore positive consequences of efficiency improvements outside of saving energy. I’m now exploring another movement—“caring economics”—led by the Center for Partnership Studies that aims to better value the work of caring for people and the planet. Both frameworks are helpful in measuring the full impact of our work here at Elevate Energy.
The Caring Economy works to shed light on “alternative economic and social indicators [in order to] build a more just, sustainable, prosperous, and caring economy.” I felt that this effort fit nicely in with our research on non-energy benefits and decided to incorporate my learning into my work here at Elevate.
For starters, reducing energy bills to be closer to 5 percent rather than 25 percent of a household’s income means more cushion for groceries or co-pays at the doctor. Helping families lower their monthly energy and water bills allows them to avoid fees, rebuild credit, keep their power and heat on, and obtain invaluable peace of mind. Assisting local energy efficiency contractors in expanding business opportunities creates jobs and grows local economies. These benefits to people’s lives are often worth far more than the saved energy.
To understand the full impact of our work, energy efficiency advocates and implementers must engage in dialogue with the communities we serve. What’s more, by harnessing the existing, collective wisdom and action of these communities, we can more meaningfully support and value the ways in which we strive to create just and sustainable places to live, work, and play.
I look forward to uncovering stories from the communities we serve that show the true power behind energy efficiency—it’s so much more than saving energy.