Political groups in opposing camps often struggle with the notion that attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut pollution will hamper business, kill innovation, and slow economic progress. But there’s one area where both sides can get along: energy efficiency.
Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), stood before a crowd of international manufacturing professionals on Monday, April 8 to discuss the organization’s goal of doubling U.S. energy efficiency by 2030 and the potential economic impact of such an achievement. Her talk was the keynote presentation at Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial technology trade show, taking place now in Hannover, Germany.
In an interview with IMT Green & Clean Journal prior to her arrival in Hannover, Callahan talked about ASE and its Energy 2030 initiative. ASE has a 35-year history of advocacy and field work to help promote more efficient energy usage and productivity. Callahan told me that ASE’s work touches every sector of the economy and is fully non-partisan. “We are not doing energy efficiency just for the environmental benefits, but also for the economic factors,” she said.
ASE was formed in response to the 1973 oil embargo and resulting energy crisis. The priority of ASE, Callahan insisted, is not to reduce greenhouse gases (though that will happen too) but “boosting productivity and getting twice as much GDP for each unit of energy.”
For U.S. manufacturers, the benefits of energy efficiency are enormous. Callahan said the industrial sector has the potential to realize $94 billion in avoided energy costs while creating 1.3 million jobs and boosting the GDP by 2 percent. It can also reduce energy imports to the point where only 7 percent of U.S. energy usage would be imported. “Even though energy is a global commodity, the economic analysis suggests that we would insulate ourselves against global price shocks. The impacts would be one-third of what they would be otherwise,” she said.
A recent study from MIT notes there are thermodynamic limitations to energy efficiency, but experts agree that there are ways around that.
The Energy 2030 initiative details 50 recommendations to individuals, industry, and government, each of which revolves around three key strategies:
“In manufacturing,” Callahan said, “investments would be in upgrading plants and buildings to put in more efficient equipment, making cost effective investments — those with an ROI of 10 percent or greater — that will result in energy savings.”
Callahan also advised manufacturers to report their energy usage and costs. “The reason is that, when the companies that are investing heavily in energy look at their usages and spending, they are able to set goals, establish a baseline, and measure against that.”
Her hope for the keynote at Hannover Messe, she told me, is to communicate that the U.S. is working to invest in new technologies, modernize its operations, and return to the forefront of global manufacturing leadership. “Hopefully that will spur competitive juices for other [countries] to step up and do the same,” she added. “What makes this really tangible is that the President, in the State of the Union address, has stated the same goal.”
In order to do that, Callahan admitted the U.S. has some work to do. Currently, she said, the U.S. is ranked No. 9 for energy efficiency globally. But if government and industry can stand united in the goal, Callahan believes is can be achieved. “You will see people on both sides of the aisle embracing the notion that we don’t have to sacrifice the economy for the environment, and that we don’t need to find new sources of energy to become secure.”