Political partisanship and polarization are preventing progress on Capitol Hill. The latest victim might be the American Jobs Act and its National Infrastructure Bank. The real victims are the American people. That’s why it is so important that organizations like the Alliance to Save Energy continue to keep the bipartisan spirit alive, because the American people deserve more responsible leadership in Washington.
Alliance to Save Energy co-founders, Illinois Republican Senator Charles H. Percy, who died last month at the age of 91, and the late Minnesota Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey, had a bipartisan vision of an energy efficient America and world.
Today at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, the Alliance held their annual energy efficiency policy summit, titled “Driving Energy Efficiency as the Next Big Thing.” Topics included how governments are investing in energy efficiency, innovations in implementation and finance, and saving water along with energy. The speakers included Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), Representative Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dr. Daniel Yergin, who was recently a guest on the Colbert Report promoting his new book, “The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World.” Dr. Yergin is also set to receive the Charles H. Percy Award for Public Service at tonight’s 19th annual awards dinner.
Here are a few highlights from the many panelists and keynote speakers.
- Gil Quiniones, President and CEO of the New York Power Authority, touted two progressive legislative actions that were signed into law by Governor Cuomo this year — ReCharge New York allocates low-cost power to businesses that commit to creating and retaining jobs. Power New York encourages investments in new clean power plants and creates the nation’s first “On Bill” recovery program for homeowners to invest in energy efficiency by taking out low-interest loans for energy efficiency measures that will be paid back on their utility bills.
Quiniones said that the NYPA is 70% hydropower and 20%-30% clean natural gas. He said that Governor Cuomo has committed to $1.4 billion for energy efficiency in New York between now and 2015. And the goal is to reduce overall electricity usage by 15% by 2015.
“We need innovations in public policy and innovations in regulations,” said Quinones.
- Best Buy Senior VP Neil McPhail announced a new initiative that is tentatively being called the Home Energy Department. It will be launched in three markets — Chicago, Houston and San Francisco. McPhail said that with new technology creating more control for consumers, that it is a great time to educate and work with consumers on how to become more energy efficient at home by for example installing electric vehicle charging stations and Energy Star appliances that can be remotely controlled. Best Buy will also work with utility companies to help create energy efficient homes.
- Dr. Yergin sounded a hopeful note when he pointed out that an issue like energy efficiency has gone from contention to consensus. He said that energy efficiency is the biggest thing that we can do to combat climate change, but the problem with energy efficiency is that there is no red ribbon to cut like at a new wind turbine farm.
“We need to make energy efficiency number one,” said Yergin. “Doubling energy efficiency is a sound way to go.”
- At the Saving Water panel, the Alliance’s WATERGY: Water and Energy Efficiency was discussed. The program addresses water leakage around the world. When water is lost to leaks, both energy and costs are lost as well. Access to clean, abundant water and the interdependence of water and energy were topics of discussion by the panelists.
- Bilbray wrapped up the summit with some remarks about the need for government agencies and government regulations to be more innovative and flexible. He used the example of the unified building code as not recognizing straw-bale homes in Nebraska and adobe homes in Southern California, both of which are energy efficient, high performance, sturdy types of home construction. He also pointed out simple policies that could increase fuel efficiency in vehicles such as yield signs instead of stop signs and more roundabouts. He also talked about an electric vehicle called Aptera that gets the equivalent of 200 miles to a gallon, but doesn’t qualify for government incentives because it is three wheels.