A major energy efficiency program in Appalachia could create thousands of new jobs and save the region's residents billions in energy costs, according to a new study commissioned by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The study, conducted by the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, also found that a bold efficiency initiative could cut projected energy use in Appalachia by up to 24 percent by the year 2030.
Study authors recommended government incentives to retrofit commercial heating, ventilation and lighting, expansion of efforts to identify efficiency opportunities, clean car standards, and residential retrofit projects. Such projects would create jobs in the manufacturing, construction and other sectors.
An estimated 15,000 jobs per year for the next five years could be created, for a total of 60,000 new jobs, the study said. Annual energy bill savings would be almost $800 million, with that amount rising to more than $27 billion per year by 2030, the study concluded.
"There is an economy around energy efficiency just waiting to be unleashed," said Ben Taube, director of the alliance.
"Energy efficiency is not only the cleanest, cheapest, quickest and largest source of new power, it also creates jobs and saves billions of dollars," Taube said. "Appalachia's energy-efficiency resources have the potential to meet the region's future energy needs and ensure continued economic and environmental health."
The ARC commissioned the study as a follow up to a 2006 report that defined the region's energy goal: "To develop the Appalachian region's energy potential to increase the supply of locally produced, clean, affordable energy, and to create and retain jobs." That report identified three strategic objectives, including one that focused on energy efficiency.
According to an executive summary, the new energy efficiency study assumed that "some form of national climate or carbon policy" would be announced during the next 25 years. It assumed the costs of complying would amount to $25 to $100 per metric ton of carbon dioxide beginning in 2011, the executive summary said.
"Policy action aimed at exploiting the energy efficiency potential described in this report would set Appalachia on a course toward a sustainable and prosperous energy future," the report said. "The region's energy-efficiency resources could go a long way toward meeting its future energy needs while ensuring its continued economic and environmental health."
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