Disclaimer: If you’re here to read about the latest cool and sexy innovation in the energy industry, you’re going to be disappointed.
I’m not going to talk about Elon Musk’s newest adventures in electric vehicles (or trips to Mars) or the latest groundbreaking efforts of New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision proceeding. Instead, I’m going to spend the next 600 words praising energy efficiency – the unsung hero of the clean energy world.
I don’t usually begin writing a blog post with a disclaimer. Especially if the disclaimer is negative. But, those of us who work in the energy industry (especially in a communications role) understand the challenge that EE faces when compared to other clean energy solutions. To the casual observer (i.e. customer), it just doesn’t stack up. We can’t see it, hear it, touch it. We don’t know how it works. It’s not exciting. Dare I say, it’s even boring. It doesn’t have a real identity.
But, on October 5, 2016, energy efficiency battled its identity crisis to the bitter end, getting its day in the sun with the first-ever nationwide Energy Efficiency Day.
Last week, NEEP proudly joined a network of groups and partners across the country to promote the benefits of energy efficiency in a campaign that stretched from coast to coast. The Twittersphere was overtaken by folks using the #EEDay2016 hashtag, including tweets from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Hawaii Governor Dave Ige.
The inaugural Energy Efficiency Day was a collaborative effort of regional and national organizations - including NEEP - working to promote energy efficiency. More than 160 government agencies, companies, utilities, cities, and other organizations supported #EEDay2016 in a social media and press effort to raise awareness among the public and media by organizing participants to share related content, stories and concrete examples of the positive impact of energy efficiency.
And, the effort was tremendous.
Groups and individuals joined in the Twitter party to create an estimated reach of over 17 million impressions. EE-friendly handles tweeted their favorite energy efficiency photos, stories, resources, and even haikus and limericks.
The world (at least those on social media) saw that energy efficiency isn’t boring; it’s our invisible superhero. In fact, as the world strives to create a lower-carbon future, it is the secret weapon. Energy efficiency is the X Factor of our clean energy push.
Decarbonization won’t come from the latest technologies and applications (though they will help). Rather, according to David Roberts of Vox,
“It’s going to involve the more quotidian work of slogging through and reforming the rules, regulations, and incentives offered by various levels of government, so that they align around the deployment of existing clean energy technologies, including the boring ones.”
For example, in 2015 alone, carbon pollution was reduced by 490 million tons thanks to electric efficiency (ACEEE). Or another: U.S. Consumers save $90 billion on electric bills each year, thanks to energy efficiency! That includes an average of $460 of savings for households per year (ACEEE).
So, while energy efficiency isn’t the most exciting superhero, it is powerful nonetheless. We’ll reach our climate goals riding on our superhero’s cape, but it might feel more like a coffee date with the mild-mannered alter ego (think Superman’s Clark Kent). Energy efficiency might be boring, time-consuming, and unsexy, but it will produce fundamental, incremental, and cost-effective changes.
And that is why October 5, 2016 is such an important date. It was the day that a group of organizations took off Clark Kent’s glasses and shared energy efficiency’s super powers in a story that the world could not forget.