We hear a different version of the same story every day: The budgets of U.S. consumers and businesses are under massive strain, and unemployment is climbing. But a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy says a national efficiency standard could fatten up those budgets — to the tune of $168.6 billion dollars a year by 2020 — and create more than 220,000 jobs.
The group, ACEEE, analyzed economic and energy data from 2008, and found potential savings totalling some 16 percent more than their previous estimate of $144 billion (based on older data). The most recent estimate, released this week, reflects a scenario in which utilities cut electricity demand by 15 percent and natural gas demand by 10 percent by 2020 — reductions proposed by Democratic lawmakers and backed by ACEEE.
The so-called Save American Energy Act also has support from BICEP, a coalition of corporations including Sun Microsystems (s JAVA), eBay (s EBAY) and Symantec (s SYMC), that’s working to influence climate and energy policy.
So where would these hundreds of thousands of jobs come from? Investments in developing and deploying energy efficiency technology, according to ACEEE. The report notes that “as greater energy savings are realized, the number of jobs increases proportionally.” But near-term job losses in the electricity and natural gas sectors could make for a politically tough proposition. During the first three years of a 15 percent electricity-savings mandate, the group anticipates net job loss in those traditional energy sectors.
On the flipside, new jobs would emerge in construction and manufacturing. And don’t forget the startups: Energy-saving technology developers, such as SynapSense and Positive Energy, could see a spike in interest.