Smart investment in energy efficiency represents one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide much-need economic relief for everyday Oregon families.
But as the energy efficiency bill HB 2626 gets its first information hearing today, it's worth taking a look at how Oregon is doing in comparison to other states.
The short answer is there's a lot of room for improvement.
Earlier this year, the Rocky Mountain Institute released a study that for the first time compared states' productivity per kWh. What they found is that our country could reduce our energy consumption by 30 percent if we just met the energy efficiency levels of the top 10 states. And if the rest of the country matched California's energy efficiency performance, we'd reduce our consumption by a whopping 40 percent.
For perspective, a 30 percent drop -- 1.2 million gigawatt hours -- is equal to 62 percent of our nation's coal fired electric power.
Improving energy efficiency starts with removing barriers. And that's the approach taken by HB 2626, a starting point for a broader discussion about doing more with less. The bill is, of course, very much a work-in-progress, but holds the promise of helping a lot of Oregon families without using scarce taxpayer resources. It seeks to help families access capital for cost-effective home improvements and upgrades working through Treasurer Westlund's office.
The cost of weatherization, heating and cooling upgrades, Energy Star appliances pays for itself, but requires up-front expenses that can be difficult for working families. This bill connects homeowners with investors looking for modest, predictable returns. And it also seeks to help more families get access to good information about cost-effective efficiency options.
Maximizing the productivity of each kWh is an on-going process. And the really exciting thing is there's so much we can do. The knowledge and expertise in our own backyard -- especially within our local Oregon firms -- only continues to grow.
Investment in energy efficiency will create good jobs for Oregon and produce a multiplier effect as reduced energy costs free up more money for groceries, books, and all the household goods that families need but struggle to afford. Working with stakeholders, sponsors will continue to refine HB 2626, but the bill represents a smart starting point for one of the most effective economic and environmental investments we can make: improving our state's energy efficiency.