Over the past 40 years, energy efficiency has been associated with progressive politics. That is unfortunate, because the economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency are tangible - it isn't a cultural or philosophical belief that making better use of natural resources raises people's standard of living.
That is why I was so encouraged when the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a report recognizing the efforts of Mississippi's leadership in advancing energy efficiency in the Southeast.
I was further encouraged to find that Gov. Phil Bryant (R) had made this a focus of his administration.
I think that it is worth a look at the language Gov. Bryant is using, and why it sells in a deep red state.
Both the ACEEE report and the Governor's press release focus almost exclusively on the economic benefits. This quote from the ACEEE report is representative:
The macroeconomic assessment finds that, by 2025, these savings will result in $4.3 billion in net economic output, including $1.1 billion in wages, $825 million in income to small business owners, 32,800 person-years of employment, and increased state and local tax revenue by $80 million.These are powerful incentives. The phrase "Energy Efficiency as a Resource" appears multiple times, and neatly encapsulates the overall message that Gov. Bryant and the Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) are sending.
There are quite a few nuggets in the reports that are interesting:
- MS households have the highest electricity expenditures as a percentage of median income in the nation, despite having relatively low rates. (Sources: ACEEE, EIA 2013 Census 2012, Moody's 2013).
- MS households rank third in total energy expenditures (electricity plus fossil fuels) as a percentage of household income. That is very surprising - one wouldn't expect a relatively warm weather state to be in the top 5.
- MS only gets 25% of electricity from coal, with natural gas at 54%, nuclear at 18% and renewables making up the balance. The new EE programs are projected to meet 13% of state wide electricity needs by 2025, which should allow for some coal plant retirement.
- The cost of that energy efficiency resource is estimated at $0.03/kWh, which is lower than any other source.
What is conspicuously absent is any mention to the environment. The Governor's press release that I linked to in the intro literally does not use the word "environment". Neither does his blurb in the National Governor's Association Energy Efficiency Primer.
Even if I would like to see more emphasis on the environmental benefits of reduced energy usage, this messaging has led to MS vastly improving their performance, so I will count that as good news.