Manchin puts support behind energy efficiency bill - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Manchin puts support behind energy efficiency bill

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U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner, D-VA, and Joe Manchin, D-WV, today introduced legislation that would establish a competitive program of voluntary federal incentives that will encourage states to adopt strategies to improve energy productivity.

The two Senators hope that the bill will cut energy bills in half over 20 years while creating jobs and increasing the ability for other businesses to compete. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, doubling U.S. energy productivity over that time would create an estimated 1.3 million American jobs, cut carbon emissions and oil and gas imports by one-third, and boost America's overall annual economic output by two-percent.

"America is blessed to have such an abundance of natural resources at our disposal right here, right now," Manchin said. "It is only common sense to use those resources to get the most bang for our buck, which will help create jobs here at home and improve our economic competitiveness. We owe it to the next generation to work toward energy independence. This proposal not only encourages energy efficiency, it offers states the opportunity to figure out the best ways to produce cost-effective domestic energy."

According to a news release, the "State Energy Race to the Top" initiative incorporates a national goal of doubling the productivity of U.S. electricity use by 2030, encouraging new approaches to energy productivity through a voluntary program. The bill encourages competition for federal funding, but does not impose mandates.

Increased energy efficiency means that less fuel such as coal, natural gas, wind power or solar power is used to generate the same amount of power. Energy efficiency is often seen as a boon to both environmentalists who want to use less energy and to energy producers, who see that they can satisfy customers using less power. 

Manchin and Warner said the proposal was triggered by research that shows the United States currently wastes more energy than it uses. About 57 percent of the energy produced in the U.S. is lost as heat, noise, and leaks, costing U.S. businesses and households an estimated $130 billion per year, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.

Warner co-chairs the Alliance which recommended creating, funding and implementing an energy productivity competition for states in its Energy 2030 rrecommendations. 

"America is dead last among developed nations in energy productivity. Even China ranks ahead of the U.S. Our country needs a new approach to energy that recognizes the value of improving energy productivity to increase our competitiveness," Warner said.  "By empowering our states and local communities to take a leadership role, this friendly competition can make a difference right where it really matters.

Groups like Energy Efficient West Virginia have been fighting on the state level to get utilities and consumers to seek out more energy efficient ways to generate energy.

"In part because of historically low electric rates, we are very wasteful in our use of electricity," the EEWV states. "West Virginia's residential electricity consumption per person is 40% higher than the national average. Being more energy efficiency means being better stewards of our finite natural resources."

EEWV's website states that by lowering demand for power, the country can reduce air pollution, particularly at certain coal plants. 

"Lowering demand for power means that the least economical coal plants – which are typically the most polluting – will be the first to stop running," the website states.

The legislation seeks to cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years.  States with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings, retrofitting existing structures, upgrading inefficient appliances and other energy productivity measures would receive federal support to help make it happen.

The "State Energy Race to the Top" would use a $200 million incentive fund to advance efficiency. The legislation builds upon existing public/private networks, and encourages states, businesses and utilities to innovate:

  • Up to 25 states would compete for a combined $60 million to develop innovative energy productivity programs and policies.
  •  States must demonstrate how the money would be spent, how the savings and increased energy productivity will be measured, and how the public dollars can be leveraged through cooperative efforts with utilities.
  • Eighteen months after the initial allocation to 25 states, an additional $105 million would be divided among no more than six additional states to continue implementation of energy productivity efforts, including adoption of "best practices" spearheaded by the initial group of 25 states.  
  •  $25 million would be set-aside for innovative energy productivity programs proposed by public power utilities, rural electric cooperatives and utilities serving recognized Native American reservations.
  • The National Research Council would be required to produce an independent evaluation of the program's performance.