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'A Real Win-Win-Win': New Report Reveals Benefits of $500 Billion Investment in Energy Efficiency


'A Real Win-Win-Win': New Report Reveals Benefits of $500 Billion Investment in Energy Efficiency

Jessica Corbett, staff writer

A new report out Tuesday reveals that investing $500 billion in making U.S. residential and commercial buildings more energy efficient would benefit the planet, save money, and create millions of jobs.

"This substantial investment would reap dramatic economic benefits, create good jobs that foster a fair and just transition to clean energy, reduce energy use, and save money—all while reducing climate emissions."
—Food & Water Watch



By 2035, building upgrades would cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 300 million metric tons, compared with current projections, and cumulatively reduce utility bills by an estimated $1.3 trillion, according to the report.

I agree with the premise but have a problem with the math – $4333/ton?

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Whoa-Whoa-Whoa! I have a prototype for retrofitting a building with 90% stored solar thermal heat and 10% electricity to run the mini split heat pump. I expect this system to soon underprice fracked gas as a long-term heating system. Spending half of that $500 billion on newer fracked gas furnaces that might deliver 5% or 10% more energy efficiency is a waste of a good planet.

You’d love to see the Mueller report but all you get is a Trump-appointed guy’s opinion of the report. However, my system is at http://klinkmansolar.com/solarheat.htm



WaaHo! A system designed by a New Englander for New England conditions. Now the systems are REALLY coming of age… Thank you for your … really beautiful work!!
May the market rise to meet you, the sun be always on your panels and may you stay in the palm of the hand of the creator - in continual creativity!



I hate when authors don’t just stick to the yearly numbers. Here they are actually giving a 15 year figure (I’m more used to 10 year figures like the way health care costs are sometimes quoted). From the paper:

The reduced energy use could save residential and commercial ratepayers an average of $82.7 billion annually between 2020 and 2035 for a cumulative savings of $1.3 trillion (see Figure 3 on page 12)

(I did the computation below before I saw this - I’ll leave it here for reference)

The 300 million metric ton number (for 1 year) looks to be the right order. https://www.eesi.org/files/climate.pdf gives 2236 million metric tons of CO2 for 2004 building usage which is 39% of total US emissions. So saving on the order of 10-15% sounds OK.

The cost that 1 ton of CO2 when converted to natural gas (not including a carbon tax which I would want) is I think:

From https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gases-equivalencies-calculator-calculations-and-references, 0.0551 metric tons CO2/Mcf where Mcf = 1 thousand cubic feet (what the hell? M = 1e3? I hate English units). And finally natural gas price moves around but let’s say $15/Mcf (https://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n3010us3m.htm).

So we are at:
(15 dollars/Mcf) x (1 Mcf / 0.0551 metric tons) x (300e6 metric tons) = 82 billion dollars (almost a perfect match to the paper)



“The market rise” is already underway !

Although Seattle has been one of the fastest growing cities during the past decade, the increase in the amount of electrical energy it uses has been minimal due to energy efficient new construction and retrofits. In many cases efficient electric heat pumps or electric convection heaters are installed despite natural gas being readily available and historically more cost effective for heating.

Seattle is one of many examples, urban and rural, where “market rise” is progressing.

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With these awakenings comes renewed creativity, greater openness to possibilities in our local communities and enriched relations (in all senses).

Updates: Richard Wolff

Yanis Varoufakis - very interesting!


I always thought Obama’s first term should have included a massive jobs program for this exact purpose. The government should have hired many experts and trained many more an then set up some clever subsidy programs for energy efficiency upgrades and send these people out to all the locations explaining to the business owner, apartment building owner, or home owner what gives them the best bang for the buck (given the subsidies) and fill out whatever forms are required. Nothing in the energy topic is as much of a no-brainer as more investments in efficiency (well reducing population is the other one but most seem incapable of discussing that).



AMEN!!!   Unfortunately the Multi-NaZional fossil fuel korporations will order their minions in “our” government to stymie these anti-profiteering investments in any way that they can.

Sad, but true.  The vast majority won’t even discuss population stabilization, much less the significant reduction that is absolutely necessary for the survival of life on this quite finite planet.  “Sustainable Growth” is an oxymoron.  Even just 1% growth per year doubles population in just 70 years – which would mean 15 Billion of us by 2100 – and we are still increasing much faster than that.  If we keep on adding to our numbers at the present rate there won’t be room on earth for any other species of mam­mal larger than a rat in another 200 years or so, and a five or ten percent improvement in energy effic­iency won’t mean a damn thing.  If humans do not find a humane way to gradually reduce our numbers by decreasing the birth rate, Mother Nature will find a way to rapidly reduce our numbers by increasing the death rate — and it WON’T be pretty.

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None of this is new. It’s all retreads from the 70s energy crises, and then the early 90s eco-revival, which fizzled. Climate catastrophe would be some SF-what-if had we done the obvious, but then, the people who run things couldn’t have gotten as rich off oil and gas.



Nice. The stored heat could have been done in the 70s, but now you can truly be self-sufficient, as solar and the heat pumps have so radically matured. Good work. This is what all the old dinosaurs are fighting so hard against.



So over 15 years – efficiency consumers will save about $300/ton of CO2 displaced. The economics indicate a carbon tax is not necessary for this low hanging fruit. But we need market incentives for behavior change. Everybody wears the same hat and does the same tribal song and dance. After clean efficiency market incentives the next low cost fruit is clean heat, then clean electricity. Those that say or think low carbon is too expensive start with clean electricity economics and completely ignore lower cost carbon mitigation.



I’m not sure I’m following you. The reason I think people focus on electricity is that in most conceptions of a 100% renewable energy future, pretty much all energy use is electricity. This means going to electric heat pumps where people used to use gas fired furnaces (I’m in this boat right now trying to decide how I should upgrade my furnace which is an old 85% efficient propane device). Most renewable production doesn’t generate heat (except the CSP towers). @Trog talks about the need for heat in industrial processes and nuclear power could supply some of that heat and thus may be more economical than if you were to look at electrical energy production only.

I’m with you on efficiency - I want a lot more of it. By heat are you talking passive solar heating of buildings? I might just lump that into efficiency since it means you are buying less energy basically. But very few are going to be buying heat directly right?



Thank you!



People will be buying heat directly from district heating. Cities will be 100% heated in the dead of winter from summer heat stored in borehole seasonal heat storage. One year storage cycle efficiency isf 90%. Just one example. My Seattle climate passive home is 100% clean heat from architecture. Another example. Industrial process heat from solar concentrators is another example. Absorption district chilling is another example of heat without power. Solar/wind power could be used for marginal heat backup, motors, lights, and so on. US electricity is 17% of total consumed energy. The rest is mostly lower cost heat.

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Sounds interesting - is it cost effective? The only seasonal storage I’ve come across is pumped hydro. How is heat moved from place to place?



This is a two minute CBC News report (Canada) about storing summer solar energy for winter distribution. I believe it is the most important solar innovation under the sun. Very hopeful.

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No way this would create 20 million full-time jobs. $500 billion over 15 years ($33 billion per year) might necessitate 20 million man-years of work over 15 years, which is an average of 1.33 million full time jobs per year for each of those 15 years, but that is not the same thing at all as the implied 20 million full-time jobs per year for 15 years. This same funny-math was used by the proponents of Keystone pipeline…progressives should be above that kind of deception (or lack of understanding).

Paying 20 million people, say, $50,000 per year for 15 years would cost $15 trillion (30 times as much as $500 billion)…and that doesn’t even count the profits to the companies doing the work. Even if you factored in a very optimistic 1.5 multiplier effect of this spending (optimistic because we import so much) you wouldn’t even be close to 20 million full time jobs per year.