New Mexicans have a special reason to celebrate this year’s National Energy Efficiency Week, a time to recognize all the advantages that efficiency offers including lower energy bills, improved comfort at home and work, protecting the environment and fighting climate change. Efficiency also helps our state remain the enchanting place it is to live and to work by conserving our precious water and by creating jobs.
Energy efficiency is the art of getting the same or better performance using less energy – all while cutting utility bills for residential, business and industrial customers. We should view it as another kind of renewable energy, along with the solar and wind resources that New Mexico also has been developing. But embracing solar and wind without also adopting energy efficiency measures is like buying a new sports car and keeping your old, bald tires – the machine just won’t perform as well as it should. Simply put, New Mexico needs energy efficiency as the most fundamental, affordable and effective kind of clean energy.
We know that reliable, affordable energy is vital to our economic prosperity — and efficiency gives New Mexico a big assist in that regard. Cutting energy waste saves U.S. consumers hundreds of dollars on their utility bills annually, up to $500 per household from appliance efficiency standards alone. Consumers save $2 to $3 on their utility bills for every $1 invested in energy-efficiency measures.
What’s more, over 2.2 million Americans work in the energy-efficiency sector in local, good-paying, clean energy jobs that can’t be outsourced – including more than 5,000 workers in New Mexico.
Energy efficiency also conserves New Mexico’s precious water resources by reducing the water consumed in power plant cooling systems. Since increasing energy efficiency reduces the amount of electricity we need to power our lives, it also helps avoid power plant pollutant emissions that harm our health and warm our climate.
More than a decade ago, the state Legislature passed the Efficiency Use of Energy Act, and it has updated the measure twice since then. As a result, the three investor-owned electric utilities in New Mexico (Public Service Company of New Mexico, El Paso Electric and Xcel Energy) significantly ramped up their energy-efficiency programs. Because of the programs implemented from 2008 to 2017, last year the three utilities together reduced the demand for electricity by about 7 percent, equivalent to the electricity used by 130,000 typical New Mexican households. As a result, families and businesses in New Mexico will save over $400 million.
Energy efficiency is important in how we travel and ship our products and services, too. More efficient vehicles reduce air pollution and improve the health of all New Mexicans. That’s why the city of Albuquerque has committed itself to sustainable transportation systems by doubling the size of its major transit hub and developing a bus rapid transit system.
A nationwide network of energy-efficiency groups and partners designated Oct. 5 as the national annual Energy Efficiency Day. People in the Land of Enchantment should join in recognizing that energy efficiency is a real and important resource – one that is benefiting their lives, the state economy and the environment.
Fiebelkorn is an Albuquerque resident; the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) is a public-interest organization promoting greater energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. www.swenergy.org.