Blog to Save Energy | Alliance to Save Energy


Philadelphia Custom House.
As the Alliance’s Active Efficiency Collaborative works to integrate the benefits of traditional energy efficiency measures with the opportunities presented by digital technologies, we’re reflecting on lessons learned from past projects that withstand the test of time. Back in 2005, the energy management team at the U.S. Custom House in Philadelphia partnered with Phil Coleman of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to tackle the historic building’s $700,000 annual electric bill. Through operational changes such as pre-cooling aimed at lowering demand charges, the team was able to save energy and cut the Custom House’s bill by 14%. We talked to Phil about the origin of this project, why it’s still impressive, and what it can teach us as about load management and deploying new technologies today.
City street at sunrise.
There’s a terrific lyric from the late, great songwriter John Prine that goes, “We are living in the future. I’ll tell you how I know. I read it in the paper, 15 years ago.” I sometimes think of that line when I hear people talking about the coming clean energy revolution, because in so many ways, it’s already here. One of the clearest indicators of that is the underappreciated job growth in the industry, particularly in energy efficiency, which is now one of the largest sectors in the entire energy economy. Just how large? According to the U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER), the energy sector employed nearly 7 million Americans in 2019, or almost 5% of the U.S. workforce. Of that – at least before COVID-19 unleashed its wrath – nearly 2.4 million Americans worked in energy efficiency.
Efficiency construction worker.
Climate change has been a hot button issue of the 2020 campaign cycle, and yesterday’s release of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s long-awaited climate plan returned this topic to the forefront of the presidential race. Under the former vice president’s plan, the U.S. would spend $2 trillion over four years on clean energy with the goal of building up modern, sustainable infrastructure and achieving economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050. The plan includes a number of substantial boosts to energy efficiency in areas such as building retrofits, grid modernization, and electric vehicles. While this is still an early-stage campaign plan subject to change, here is a breakdown of the stated energy efficiency provisions as they currently stand.
Energy efficiency worker.
This month’s report finally brought some welcome news. The report, released earlier today, shows an uptick with 71,800 jobs added back in June, or about a 4% gain. We’re happy to see these numbers are no longer next to negative signs, but any optimism is tempered by significant uncertainty ahead and the sheer magnitude of the hole we’re in. There are still 360,000 energy efficiency workers unemployed: a full 15% of the workforce. For context, that’s nearly double the number of workers employed in the entire coal industry.
Grand Teton National Park hybrid vehicles.
Between months of quarantine cabin fever and evidence that coronavirus spreads less easily outside, this summer will undoubtedly see many Americans flocking to the great outdoors. The majority of our renowned national parks have reopened (find the latest info here), and with park locations in 29 of the 50 states, a road trip can be a great getaway for families looking to vacation a little closer to home this year. With this in mind, we thought we’d take a closer look at how our national park system uses energy resources, and ongoing efforts to ensure these national treasures are every bit as efficient as they are beautiful.
DFW airport at night.
The COVID-19 pandemic completely upended the familiar rhythms and routines of modern life. As countries around the world began to shut down, airports that once welcomed millions of travelers a day were eerily quiet. National and international commerce and business flights saw a dramatic drop in volume as the spread of COVID-19 increased. Nevertheless, for airports like Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), the duty of transporting essential people and supplies to their final destination never stopped, even as our economic model was thrown into chaos. In April, we saw passenger traffic decrease by 92%. Yet at the same time, our electricity demand stayed constant and our electricity costs actually increased by 8% due to price increases.
Family outside with sunset.
Riding on the coattails of a flurry of legislative activity occurring before August recess, House Democrats released their highly anticipated Climate Crisis Action Plan yesterday, billed as the most ambitious climate plan ever introduced. The 547-page, almost encyclopedic report confirms what we’ve known for a long time: efficiency is a critical component for achieving deep emissions reductions. It’s also great to see that efficiency and equity are woven throughout almost all the plan’s 12 “pillars,” rather than siloed to one section. Here are some of the ‘best in efficiency’ recommendations included.
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Fourth of July may be a day for fireworks, cherry pie, and eating way too many hot dogs, but it’s also a time to reflect on this country’s history—particularly if COVID-19 has changed your BBQ plans. As lovers of all things efficiency, we couldn’t help but take this opportunity to think back on the half-century history of energy efficiency in the U.S., and where we might just go from here.
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While Congress has yet to seriously consider legislation to help combat the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic – including its impacts on the energy sector workforce – both the House and Senate took first steps, recently hearing testimony from industry experts on how the energy sector can play a role in the economic recovery.

Several of the experts who testified promoted energy efficiency policies that would not only drive job...

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“If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that being prepared and having the right infrastructure in place are critical to our response capabilities.” - Alliance Interim President Clay Nesler

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear our aging infrastructure was not ready for a crisis of this scale. It’s also unfortunately evident that the economic fallout from this pandemic will have no quick fix, but will require long-term, targeted stimulus to provide families with relief and get millions of displaced workers back on the job. This unprecedented crisis calls for bold solutions to address our infrastructure’s state of disrepair and prepare our country for future emergencies.

That’s why we are thrilled to see Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Rep. Lisa...