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New state polls show strong support for federal and state energy efficiency standards

Christina Angelides

Posted September 19, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming

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Last week, NRDC, Consumers Union and state public interest groups, including Environment Illinois, Environment Ohio, Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, and Sierra Club Michigan and Sierra Club Illinois, released four new polls in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Maine that show state residents strongly support federal and state energy efficiency standards and policies.  You can see the results for each poll at the following links: IL, MI, OH and ME.   

Not only do voters in these states strongly support the government taking action to help individuals and businesses become more energy efficient and setting minimum efficiency standards for household products, such as light bulbs, refrigerators and other appliances, but respondents also report they are taking energy efficiency to heart in their own lives, realizing significant savings and more options in the marketplace as a result.

The polls, conducted by Public Policy Polling, reveal that:

  • 78 percent of voters in Illinois, 77 percent in Michigan, 74 percent in Ohio, and 77 percent in Maine support the expanded use of energy efficiency technologies to help meet our energy needs and reduce energy costs.
  • State residents by in large have already installed energy efficiency products in their own homes or businesses and are reaping the benefits.  84 percent of voters in Illinois, 85 percent in Michigan, 85 percent in Ohio, and 86 percent in Maine say they have installed and are using energy efficiency technologies.
  • 65 percent of voters in Illinois, 62 percent in Michigan, 61 percent in Ohio, and 66 percent in Maine agree that switching to more efficient lighting is an effective way to reduce energy waste.
  • There’s strong bipartisan support across all four states for energy efficiency standards.   In Illinois, 85 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents, and 66 percent of Republicans support energy efficiency standards; in Michigan, 84 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents, and 69 percent of Republicans; in Ohio, 80 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents, and 68 percent of Republicans; and in Maine 86 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents, and 64 percent of Republicans.
  • Voters strongly support the federal government setting minimum energy efficiency standards for various household products.  Energy efficiency standards for appliances are supported by 68 percent of voters in Illinois, 62 percent in Michigan, 61 percent in Ohio, and 67 percent in Maine.  Energy efficiency standards for light bulbs also receive strong support—69 percent in Illinois, 64 percent in Michigan, 60 percent in Ohio, and 66 percent in Maine.
  • In addition to federal action, 58 percent of voters in Illinois, 58 percent in Michigan, and 60 percent in Ohio would like their state governments to require electric utilities in their state to help customers become more energy efficient.

Finally, the survey found that elected officials who attempt to weaken or delay energy efficiency standards could pay a price at the polls.  51 percent of voters in Illinois, 48 percent in Michigan, 45 percent in Ohio, and 50 percent in Maine said they would oppose efforts by their members of Congress to weaken or delay standards.

The results don’t come as a huge surprise considering the significant savings these state consumers are already seeing due to energy efficiency standards and programs in their states, as well as federal energy efficiency standards. 

Federal lighting standards alone will save consumers and businesses nationwide $12.5 billion per year on their utility bills—money that can be reinvested in our economy—when the standards are fully implemented.  The standards will save as much electricity as that generated by 30 large power plants, and prevent more than 100 million tons of carbon pollution per year.  In Michigan, for example, this will mean savings of approximately $89 per year for every household, for a total of $357 million in savings statewide.  You can see more state-specific numbers: here. Other federal standards, such as the national consensus appliance standards, could save consumers even more on their energy bills—up to $43 billion by 2030 or $2800 per household—but are still awaiting passage by Congress.

The Midwest states that were polled are also seeing big returns from their energy efficiency standards and programs.  In Illinois, energy efficiency programs are making a huge impact, saving Ameren and ComEd customers $2.80 for every dollar spent.  The Illinois Commerce Commission just approved a new three-year efficiency plan for ComEd, under which ComEd will install enough energy efficiency measures to create a net savings of $500 million to its customers.

In the first year of utility efficiency programs in Michigan, the reduction in energy demand totaled 375,000 MWh, enough to power more than 37,000 homes.  The projections for this year show that the programs will reduce demand by twice that amount or about 750,000 MWh.

According to NRDC analysis, Ohio’s energy efficiency programs deployed by three of the state’s utilities in accordance with the state’s energy efficiency portfolio standard, in 2009 and 2010 will save customers $351 million over the installed devices’ lifetimes, more than $4 in savings for every $1 the utility invested.

And in Maine, Efficiency Maine, a statewide effort to promote the more efficient use of electricity and help Maine consumers and businesses reduce their electric bills, reported that in 2010 alone the program reduced energy demand by 93,000 MWh, provided $95.8 million in lifetime economic benefits, and leveraged $75 million in private investment with $20 million in grants and rebates to help drive Maine’s recovering economy.

These significant savings are critical at a time when budgets are tight in households across the country.  They are also a large part of why consumers strongly support energy efficiency standards in these polls and want their congressional members, governors, and state representatives to be standing up for these policies in Washington DC and their states.

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