If you were told that there’s a way to cut your energy bill, create jobs, pump money back into the economy and help tackle the biggest environmental problem of our time – global warming – you’d probably ask: So what are we ...
If you were told that there’s a way to cut your energy bill, create jobs, pump money back into the economy and help tackle the biggest environmental problem of our time – global warming – you’d probably ask: So what are we waiting for?
A new study
released yesterday by Environment Northeast looks at the economic impacts of greater investment in energy efficiency in four eastern provinces (Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI). It found that when governments invest in saving businesses and homeowners money on energy costs, it can have big impacts across the economy.
There’s the potential to lower energy bills by roughly $2-2.50 for every dollar invested. For these four provinces, that’s $40-60 billion saved over time. A national program for energy efficiency reduced home energy bills by an average of 25%.
But the money that you and I save on lower energy bills doesn’t disappear. It gets spent on other things like home renovations, entertainment and travel. Or lowers household debt. The same goes for money that businesses save. This helps the rest of the economy, increasing GDP by an estimated
$84 billion or more over time.
Investing in reducing energy use also creates jobs. The study
found that a moderate energy efficiency program could create 625,000 job-years (one job for one person for one year). Put another way, that’s more than 22,300 jobs per year. A more ambitious program would mean more jobs on top of that. Even studies
touted by the oil industry say this far outpaces the jobs this region can expect to get from tar sands expansion.
Reducing energy use can also save governments money by avoiding the need to invest in costly new electricity generation, and generates more tax revenue by pumping money into the economy than what’s lost through reduced fossil fuel use.
As if that’s not enough, energy efficiency is also the cheapest way to cut carbon pollution. McKinsey
, a global consulting firm, estimates that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced at a cost of negative $35 per tonne using technologies that exist today. This means that we save money by tackling global warming.
So what’s the problem? Well, we’re not doing it. Some provinces like Nova Scotia have commendable energy efficiency programs. But the federal government has axed
its ecoEnergy program, which aimed to save homeowners and businesses money on energy costs. Other provinces, like Ontario
, are lagging behind, too.
We spend a lot of time debating which type of energy to use: coal vs renewables, nuclear vs hydro, oil vs biofuels. Proponents of polluting fuels like oil, coal and gas believe we’re going to keep needing more and more energy, which justifies the pollution that expanding those fuels will bring. But why? The real debate should be whether we need more or less of all forms of energy, and why governments aren't doing more to save us all money on that energy bill.