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Energy efficiency in US could create 333,000 jobs

Proposed US legislation on energy efficiency would create more than half-a-million jobs within two years, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Committees from both the US Senate and the House of Representatives are holding hearings this week on proposed residential and commercial retrofit programmes and an energy efficient manufacturing grant programme. The Obama Administration and Congress are concerned about high unemployment and want to enact a jobs bill this spring.

The focus of the legislation is to create jobs this year and will emphasise programmes that can create jobs within months of enactment, explains ACEEE.

"The energy efficiency programmes in these proposals would create jobs because energy efficiency improvements are labour intensive and net job creators,” explains Steven Nadel of ACEEE. “These programmes would produce more construction and service-sector jobs than those energy sector jobs lost from reduced energy consumption.”

“In addition, these programmes would continue creating small numbers of jobs even after the stimulus period is over, because energy bill savings enable consumers and businesses to spend that money elsewhere in the economy.”

Work cannot be outsourced to other countries

Most products used in buildings retrofits (insulation and windows) are manufactured in the United States and construction jobs cannot be outsourced, providing local jobs in communities. These provisions would represent good investments by their focus on improving productivity, creating jobs and leveraging government, consumer, and business funds in the best way possible.

A Federal investment of US$16 billion in 2010 would generate US$51bn of total investment, and create 333,000 jobs this year. It would also save 77 TWh of electricity and 445,000 Btu of thermal energy.

Net jobs created in 2011 would be 184,000 and 54,000 in 2012 as funding winds down. By the 10th year (2019), the stimulus for improving energy efficiency  would still be creating 48,000 net jobs.

“These estimates of job creation are probably conservative since we did not examine the impact of lower energy consumption on energy prices,” adds Nadel. “When energy prices go down, money is freed up for spending in more labour-intensive parts of the economy."

Provisions under study

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee and a House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy & the Environment will be considering provisions for residential retrofits which include the Home Star programme (nicknamed Cash for Caulkers) that calls for energy savings of 20% and a prescriptive programme that provides incentives for specific energy efficiency improvements such as insulation and sealing.

The industrial proposal would build on a grant provision that provided US$156 million for efficiency and CHP projects. The commercial concept is titled Building Star and includes prescriptive rebates for specific heating, lighting and control measures. 

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Energy efficiency  •  Policy, investment and markets