We’re Leaving Too Many Energy Dollars behind Us, on the Ground

We could save a lot of cash - and keep a lot of carbon from the air - if we tweaked our habits and focused a little more on saving energy. But we're all too busy. Here's what we need to change.

May 19, 2014 | Source: The Daily Climate | by Ruth Greenspan Bell and Elke U. Weber

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WASHINGTON – When you work on climate change policy, as we do, frustration is a given. Exercise is an antidote. But what happens when antidote becomes frustration?

The Washington, DC YMCA offers a convenient evening spin class, a good place to blow off steam. The Y also regularly seeks member donations for very deserving social programs, such as summer and after school programs for low income kids.

But walk into the Y and – particularly if you work on climate policy – you can’t help spot money flying out doors and windows: TVs run unwatched on equipment. Lights illuminate empty rooms and hallways. You feel the building strain to cool members on hot days and warm them on cold ones.

There’s a solution to all this: energy service (or savings) companies, known as ESCOs, analyze properties and design energy-efficient solutions, using savings to pay back the investment over time, from five to 20 years. They know innovative financing methods. They can tap government incentive programs. ESCOs aren’t foolish. They do the work only if savings will cover the costs.

Pushing on an open door

You’d think connecting Y management with an ESCO would be pushing on an open door. The Y is a community organization. Those energy savings would go a long way to support programs for kids, and the Y serves as a great example for the region.

Not quite. Instead the Y serves as a fine example of what’s so hard about saving energy in this country.

In 2010 we started making inquiries with Y management about saving energy. Almost 28 months later, in November 2012, the conversation started in earnest. Another year passed before we could finally connect an ESCO and the Y on the phone.