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Consumer group touts financial benefits of energy efficiency

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A new report by the Consumer Federation of America touts the consumer benefits of climate and energy legislation, predicting household savings if “strong energy efficiency policies” are adopted.

Such efficiency-heavy legislation could save Hoosier families $424 a year, said Washington, D.C.-based CFA in “Building on the Success of Energy Efficiency Programs to Ensure an Affordable Energy Future.”

But opponents of energy/climate change legislation—which has predominantly been in the form of so-called cap-and-trade legislation—aren’t convinced.

Jim Rogers, CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy, the largest electric supplier in Indiana, warned previously that electric bills could soar 40 percent in some areas under cap-and-trade scenarios being batted about last year.

Indiana would take a disproportionate beating because nearly 95 percent of electricity in the state is generated by coal. Utilities serving the state would be forced to buy allowances to emit CO2 and/or to invest in alternative generation such as wind or even nuclear power.

CFA says an energy policy more focused on energy efficiency could reduce overall energy use up to 30 percent, as well as create jobs.

“Cap-and-trade has monopolized the headlines. But given its stellar record of success, it’s time for senators to view energy efficiency as a cornerstone of the nation’s climate and energy policy,” said Mark Cooper, research director for CFA.

“Consumers are letting hundreds of dollars a year slip through their fingers, money they can hardly afford to waste,” said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.

But the Congressional Budget Office estimated that a 15-percent reduction in emissions would cause prices to rise to the tune of 3.3 percent of after-tax income for the lowest income household—or about $680 a year.

The effects on the middle class could mean an income hit of 2.7 percent to 2.9 percent, or about $880 to $1,500 a year, said the CBO.

Such numbers don’t mean much, however, until Congress comes up with a plan. Early this month, the Senate began reviving energy legislation efforts put on the back burner by health care reform.

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