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ENERGY EFFICIENCY:
WHAT IS IT AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
By Ben Greenberg, Affordable Clean Energy Project
The Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC) initiated its Affordable Clean Energy Project in 2016. The purpose of the project is to give a voice to low-income Virginians on the impacts of energy costs and the need for energy efficiency measures that address and creates resiliency despite those rising energy costs on behalf of low-income residents and underserved communities. The project focuses on the involvement of people directly impacted and the collaboration with other concerned organizations.
Energy costs are among the most significant costs incurred by individuals and families. The importance of such costs increases dramatically for those with low-income as energy costs take up a disproportionately large portion of their available income.
There are various methods to address energy costs. The use of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, is one method that is becoming increasingly popular. One method of reducing energy costs is through conservation, which involves cutting back on or going without a service to save energy. An example would be turning off a light to save energy.
As stated above, the Affordable Clean Energy Project focuses on energy efficiency as a low-cost method of reducing energy costs for low-income Virginians. The cheapest energy is often the energy not used. Through energy efficiency, one uses less energy for the same service, not a reduced services as with energy conservation. An example of energy efficiency would be using a compact fluorescent light bulb to replace an incandescent light bulb.
Energy efficiency and reduced use of energy are important to energy policy in Virginia, the United States and throughout the world. The energy policies developed and implemented by our elected officials have a significant impact on the quality and availability of our energy, the cost of our energy and the economy on which we base jobs and wages.
In the past energy policies were based on the availability of fossil fuels like coal and oil. Also, our use of energy was dependent on such things as traditional appliances, gas-hungry vehicles and energy burning light sources. It is no surprise that as a result of these factors past energy use was excessive, costly and wasteful, not to mention severely detrimental to our environment. As the scientific community has helped push the world to a better understanding of climate change, the many costs and adverse health effects associated with fossil fuel consumption for energy, energy efficiency, and technologies that help increase our energy efficiency are needed more than ever.
There are many examples of how energy efficiency can reduce our need for energy and thus positively impact our pocketbooks and the environment. One example is when someone replaces an older appliance with a more energy efficient one. The new appliance provides the same service but uses less energy. Another example is when you replace your car with a newer model that gets more miles per gallon of gas or uses battery power in place of gasoline. Replacing single pane windows with double pane windows reduces the use of energy but serve the same function.
VPLC is proud to work on an issue that over time helps lower income Virginians to have more predictable and lower energy bills that assist with energy cost fluctuation into the future.