As world leaders gather this week in Paris to discuss climate solutions on a global scale, it’s important to remember the clean energy opportunities we have right here at home that can be instrumental in solving this global problem. We know that transitioning to a clean energy economy will create millions of jobs in coming years, and that change is already underway at the local level as weatherization programs help families keep warm and lower utility bills, all while cutting dangerous carbon pollution.
Today, NextGen Climate America and Policy Matters Ohio, in partnership with Green for All and Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy released a new report showing how low-income home weatherization efforts benefit all Ohioans.
The report finds that weatherization efforts can cut utility bills by $274 each year for a single-family home and that over time these efforts will put more than an extra $4,500 in families’ pockets.
Warming Up to Clean Energy
The benefits of these programs extend beyond the families that receive direct weatherization services and save money for all utility customers. Part of the reason is when customers receive weatherization services, their overall utility bills are permanently lowered. For lower-income families who may also be eligible for utility bill payment assistance, having lower bills means that they rely less on these programs, which all customers help to fund.
An added benefit for all customers is that energy efficiency measures included in the weatherization package are highly cost-effective: for every $1 a utility invests in efficiency, customers save more than $2 on their utility bills.
When we factor in the health benefits to families that receive weatherization services, the benefits of weatherization outweigh the costs by more than 4 to 1.
The effect of weatherization becomes real when you walk up on the porch of an 80 year old woman, like Meta, one of our clients. She was living with space heaters — which were expensive, dangerous, and inefficient. With the right set of weatherization measures she has lowered her bills and is able to be comfortable in a warm home, all while reducing her carbon footprint.
Tom Calhoun, Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD)
Looking forward, there’s a tremendous opportunity for states that implement energy efficiency measures for low-income communities. Weatherization programs cut carbon pollution, which can help meet states’ pollution reduction targets under the Clean Power Plan. In fact the benefits are so great that the Environmental Protection Agency is providing extra compliance credits for utilities in states that implement these programs after they submit approvable state plans. States should take advantage of these incentives by moving quickly to submit an approvable plan and ramping up their weatherization programs as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, in Ohio, the state is moving in the wrong direction on both the Clean Power Plan and low-income weatherization programs
Freezing Out Low-Income Families
Between 2008 and 2014, the energy efficiency requirements of Ohio’s clean energy laws led to a nearly seven-fold increase in low-income home weatherization investments by Ohio’s investor-owned electric utilities. However, in 2014, Governor John Kasich signed into law a bill freezing the clean energy standards for two years while a legislative committee assessed whether to eliminate them altogether. Our report found that, once frozen, electric utility investments declined by 26%, with American Electric Power cutting its program in half.
Meanwhile, approximately 390,000 Ohio households participate in utility bill assistance programs. If Ohio utilities commit to weatherize these households over the next 13 years, the benefits would be huge. Our new report shows that weatherizing 30,000 homes each year would result in the creation of 2,400 good, local Ohio jobs and save Ohio families $1.77 billion on their energy bills.
But instead of pursuing these common sense solutions that benefit all Ohioans, the state’s energy efficiency requirements remain frozen, Ohio’s attorney general is suing to try to stop the Clean Power Plan, utilities are seeking bailouts for their outdated, dirty coal plants, and legislators are taking cues from polluter funded groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and trying to roll back clean energy even more.
The clean energy economy is taking off, and Ohio families can benefit, but first utilities and elected officials need to stand with Ohio families by reinstating the Buckeye State’s clean energy standards and embrace the opportunity that comes with the Clean Power Plan.