"Energy efficiency can play a huge role in meeting energy -- and economic -- needs in a cost-effective and environmentally sensitive fashion," said Richard Hirsh, a professor in the history department and Science and Technology Studies program at Virginia Tech.
Hirsch served as an advisor to a consortium of organizations that has just issued the comprehensive report, Energy Efficiency in Appalachia.
The report concludes that implementing energy-efficiency measures in Appalachia has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs and save billions of dollars in energy costs over the next 20 years. Conducted for Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) by the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA), Energy Efficiency in Appalachia also finds that a bold energy efficiency initiative could cut projected energy use in the region by up to 24 percent by the year 2030.
"Moreover, because energy efficiency requires no new sources of energy, it actually helps satisfy energy demand better than even the cleanest renewable-energy system," said Hirsh, an energy policy researcher with graduate degrees in physics and the history of science and who has taught at Virginia Tech since 1980.
However, the ambitious technical potential of energy-efficiency gains described in the report will not be achieved unless governments and businesses pursue creative policies, Hirsh warned. "As is usually the case, the technical aspects of this proposed program may be easier to conceive than to implement because energy problems are often social problems; they require the support and encouragement of numerous institutions and individuals, many of whom have conflicting goals.
"Still, given the economic and energy challenges facing us, the time may be ripe to embrace the report’s suggestions and aggressively pursue energy efficiency efforts – in the Appalachian region and throughout the country," Hirsh said.
Appalachia is home to 23.6 million people. It includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The region’s energy consumption is expected to increase 28 percent between 2006 and 2030, compared with a 19 percent increase forecast for the United States as a whole.
The ARC study models policy actions that could reduce this need across industrial, commercial, residential, and transportation sectors. The most effective policies modeled in the study include incentives for commercial heating, ventilation, and air-condition (HVAC) and lighting retrofits; expansion of industrial assessment centers to help industries identify energy efficiency opportunities; support for commissioning of existing commercial buildings to ensure energy efficiency standards; clean car standards; and residential retrofit with resale energy labeling.
The study, completed in partnership with Georgia Institute of Technology, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and the Alliance to Save Energy, comes at a time when national attention is focused on the faltering economy and the federal government is promoting job creation through targeted spending on infrastructure and energy efficiency.
The study is available for download on the Appalachian Regional Commission Online Resource Center webpage and on the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance website.
The Appalachian Regional Commission is a partnership of these states and the federal government that works with the people of Appalachia to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic development and improved quality of life.
The Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) promotes energy efficiency for a cleaner environment, a more prosperous economy, and a higher quality of life in the Southeastern region of the United States.