Energy efficiency is still largely an untapped energy resource that could save Louisianans money on their utility bills, create local jobs and increase the competitiveness of the state’s businesses. According to two new reports released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) on the potential for energy efficiency in Louisiana and New Orleans, a set of new or expanded energy-efficiency policies and programs could save customers $4.2 billion in lower energy costs and support 27,100 jobs within the state by 2030.
“These reports show that Louisiana could save billions by cutting down on energy waste,” says Maggie Molina, senior manager at ACEEE and lead author of the Louisiana report. “Improving energy efficiency also creates local jobs—contractors are employed to help residents and businesses improve their homes and buildings, and money saved on utility bills is spent in the local economy, further boosting local job growth.”
While Louisiana has taken steps to cut down on energy waste, progress has been fitful in recent months. In December 2012, the Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC) took steps towards helping residents and business lower their power bills by approving utility energy efficiency programs, only to later suspend the rules in February. The PSC now plans to revisit the issue in June.
The New Orleans City Council is currently considering expanding customer access to energy-efficiency services through its Energy Smart programs in partnership with Entergy New Orleans, the city’s energy utility. The reports find that while New Orleans is leading the state on energy-efficiency programs, existing policies are still not capturing the full economic benefits from energy efficiency such as lower utility bills and job creation. A comprehensive suite of energy-efficiency policies and programs could net New Orleans nearly $450 million in energy bill savings and support 1,500 full-time jobs by 2030.
“The opportunities for new energy bill savings and new local economic development from expanded energy efficiency are significant,” says Eric Mackres, senior researcher at ACEEE and lead author of the New Orleans report. “The city council’s leadership on energy efficiency at this critical juncture can set the stage for long-lasting economic benefits for residents and businesses in New Orleans.”
“Successful programs in New Orleans are already delivering results and could be expanded to benefit the rest of the state,” Molina adds. “Greater access to energy efficiency could help customers lower their energy usage and save money, while improving the energy system at large through greater reliability and lower costs.”
ACEEE’s reports are the first to quantify the economic benefits that energy efficiency can deliver to all of Louisiana and New Orleans. However, local businesses are already familiar with the ways that energy efficiency can help them stay competitive.
“Energy efficiency is an important aspect of our business,” says Ralph Brennan, owner of the New Orleans-based Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group. “With five locations, our team consistently reviews ways in which we can save on our operational costs. We’ve done things like change out our light bulbs, invest in low-energy dishwashing equipment, turn down the lights during pre?opening hours and slightly adjusting the thermostats, to name a few, to reduce our energy costs and improve our bottom line.”
Other states in the region are also beginning to increase their efforts to help cut energy waste. Arkansas is a leader with the passage of an energy-efficiency resource standard in 2010. Recently Mississippi passed four landmark energy efficiency bills as part of a comprehensive energy development strategy. ACEEE’s 2012 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which scores states on their efforts to encourage energy efficiency, ranked Louisiana 43rd.