December 8, 2007

Reduce emissions by reducing energy use (duh!)

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has released its study of the economic impact of a federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), which is being debated in the U.S. Congress as part of new energy legislation. The ACEEE found that the RES would lower electricity prices, primarily by reducing demand rather than by adding renewable energy plants.

The RES, which is allegedly meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but instead simply calls for 15% of electricity sales by 2020 to be from renewable sources, allows 27% (why not all, as in Canada?) of the requirement to be met by efficiency improvement, i.e., actually reducing use. The ACEEE assumes the 4% efficiency will be used, and that's where the savings are -- in both prices and emissions.

The ACEEE underscores this by analyzing another scenario that would combine a 15% RES with a 15% efficiency requirement, finding very much greater savings.

That is not surprising. Requiring purchases of renewable energy does nothing towards the goal of reducing greenhouse gas and other emissions or of reducing the use of dwindling or sociopolitically problematic energy sources. It is like a diet regimen that says every time you eat a dish of ice cream you have to eat a carrot (or pay someone else to eat a carrot).

In Canada, Alberta requires a 12% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2014. A similar federal rule is expected to take effect in 2010.

The U.S., in contrast, only adds tax giveaways to the carrot industry to those for the ice cream companies. Cutting down is bad for business.