By Lauren Urbanek, Natural Resources Defense Council
Federal energy efficiency standards for appliances, electronics, and other equipment are known to save energy, cut utility bills, and reduce harmful pollution. But something that isn’t widely known is that they’ve led to hundreds of thousands of jobs, providing economic benefits to every state, red and blue alike.
A new report spotlights the significant economic benefits of the standards program. Standards have direct job impacts in terms of the manufacturing and installation of more efficient appliances or equipment, but their main job creation effect is from the money consumers don’t have to spend on their utility bills and can spend on other things instead. The savings is reinvested in the economy, which has resulted in nearly 300,000 jobs created since the national standards program began in 1987. That number is projected to nearly double to more than 550,000 in 2030, and the benefits could grow even more if existing standards are updated and new ones are adopted.
The report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) comes at a critical time. It highlights the economic harm that would be caused by rolling back standards or weakening the standards-setting program. The appliance standards program has been largely put on ice by the Trump administration, in spite of the program’s proven record of success, its history of bipartisan support, and its potential to save consumers even more money.
Savings Are Huge, and Growing
Since President Reagan signed the first federal appliance standards into law in 1987, the U.S. Department of Energy has set energy efficiency standards for more than 60 categories of products ranging from light bulbs and common household appliances like clothes washers and refrigerators to commercial equipment such as boilers. These commonsense standards already save the average U.S. household $500 a year in energy costs. They are, by DOE’s own estimates, projected to save $2 trillion by 2030.
That’s money that consumers can spend on good and services, and businesses can invest in expanding their operations, creating jobs and boosting the economy.
Even though the national standards program has been in place for a solid 30 years, savings from appliance standards are far from tapped out. The annual net economic savings from existing standards totaled an estimated $58 billion in 2016 and are projected to grow to $134 billion by 2030, according to the report.
The 2030 projection of more than 550,000 related jobs related will come close to the number of jobs in the entire U.S. mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector by that date, the report notes.
Even so, the Trump administration has sought to delay standards. It also has raised the possibility of making changes to the standards-setting program that could slow or halt the progress we have made in cutting energy use, saving consumers money, reducing harmful pollution and creating jobs.
Every State Benefits
Federal efficiency standards have created jobs in every state, demonstrating that environmental protection and economic growth can go hand in hand.
In California, the national efficiency standards are projected to create more than 82,000 jobs in 2030 for a net economic benefit of nearly $20 billion. New York is projected to see about 50,000 jobs; Texas, about 38,000; Florida, more than 32,000.
Even the reddest states will benefit from job growth from the standards, including Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.
While standards can have direct job impacts in terms of the manufacturing of more efficient appliances or equipment, their main job creation effect is from the money consumers don’t have to spend on their utility bills and can spend on other things instead.
The ACEEE/ASAP analysis is only the latest report to showcase the importance of clean energy—especially energy efficiency–to the economy.
Nearly 3.2 million Americans worked in wind, solar, energy efficiency, and other clean energy jobs in 2017, outnumbering fossil fuel jobs 3 to 1, according to the recently released U.S. Energy and Employment Report. The energy efficiency sector added the most jobs of any energy industry in 2017.
Energy efficiency standards are a proven, cost-effective way to save money, reduce the harmful effects of carbon pollution through reduced power plant emissions because not as much electricity needs to be generated from burning fossil fuels, and keep the air we breathe healthier. And standards keep Americans employed, too! Talk about a win for the economy.