I’ve adhered to this principal for decades. And I’ve had the pleasure of diving back into energy efficiency periodically, as I’ve led periodic updates to consumer outreach materials for the American Public Power Association. These include guides that APPA member utilities can provide to their residential and small-business customers, and a new version in Spanish.
The biggest surprise in our recent research? Over the past five to ten years, energy efficiency has become the success story that hardly anyone knows. And many public agencies, utilities and non-profits are complicit—if inadvertently—because they have not replaced outdated information from websites and handouts.
According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the current rollback on lighting standards could cost U.S. consumers an extra $14 billion on energy bills annually and raise energy generation needs.
But here’s the thing: utilities and our clean energy allies still use the CFL as the icon for energy efficiency and “green living.” Just Google “energy efficient light bulb cartoon.” Or grab a chart off a similar Google search, comparing light bulb choices. You’re likely to get an eight to 10 year old graphic, estimating LED prices at $10 to $25 a piece. Local agencies still use these charts and cite them at outreach events. Yet the cost of LEDs today is less than one-tenththeir cost in 2012, and the quality and versatility of LEDs is incomparable to earlier generations of these lamps. If we experts don’t spread the good news about energy efficiency, who will?
Energy advances related to other appliances and electronics are similarly under-reported and consequently, their potential benefits are under-realized. For example, big-screen TVs were frightening energy hogs in the early 2000s. But today, large-screen plasma TVs are no longer on the market. They’ve been replaced by backlit LED TVs and new technologies, such as new High-Dynamic Range (HDR) TVs and Organic Light-Emitting-Diode (OLED) TVs. Gamers need to know they have new affordable options—and that a few minutes spent on their system’s control settings might save them enough to pay for a new game release. Unfortunately, this information is not top of mind for gamers or for any energy user—and readily available information is out of date or buried on the U.S. EPA website.
One Google search I found especially disheartening was a search for updates on plug loads, or what we used to call “Energy Vampires.” It was President George W. Bush who first popularized that term in the early 2000s and took aim at electronic devices that sucked electricity whenever they were plugged in, whether operating or not. After the term showed up in a State of the Union address, policymakers and manufacturers stepped up, and today, electronics from laptops to smart speakers draw a relative pin-prick of power. (According to ESource, the Google Home smart speaker draws about 2 Watts in idle mode and the Echo draws just under 3; most charging devices draw less than 1 Watt.) Yet I’m going to bet a lot of energy agencies are still handing out factsheets about the shameless energy demand of fax machines, VCRs and Ti-Vos. You can flash back, looking at a still-posted Lawrence Berkeley National Labs (LBNL) website on standby energy needs, which has references listed from as far back as the 1990s, and none more recent than 2008.
Advocates say they are formulating legal strategies to delay the demise of energy efficiency standards, but the first step is to make sure the media and your energy customers have the facts. Reportedly, appliance and electronics manufacturers would like to stick to the plans they’ve been ramping up for years, to help meet clean energy and modernization goals. Let’s do what we can to preserve their chances to win in a free and fair market. Update your facts. And give a skeptic a warm, bright LED, preferably with the current price tag attached. Let’s spread the word that clean energy is not only do-able; it’s close at hand.
Contact us today, to discuss an audit and update of your energy outreach materials.