Texas is coming up with green solutions without looking for them. Businesses in the heartland of brown jobs may not intend to reduce their carbon footprint, but they are always looking for ways to save money. Finding more efficient ways to allocate energy is one of the places they’re starting. The Economist reports:
For many years energy efficiency was the poor relation to cutting-edge clean technology initiatives like wind and solar. But now the more workaday strategies are getting a new look-in. Efficiency measures can often save as much power as the more glamorous efforts can produce, at a fraction of the cost. One widely used estimate comes from a 2009 report from McKinsey, which reckoned that America could reduce its non-transport energy consumption by roughly 23% by 2020 through efficiency savings alone.Some cities have come up with specific targets for efficiency. In San Antonio, the municipally owned power provider, CPS Energy, has plans to cut its consumption by 771 megawatts through energy efficiency by 2020, using various incentives and nudges. Customers who buy highly efficient cooling systems rather than the minimum-standard kind can, for example, get a rebate to make up the difference in price. As the more efficient systems yield lower bills, this is quite an attractive proposition. The 771MW figure represents about 10% of the utility’s current generation capacity, or about as much as a typical coal-fired power plant can produce. This summer, in fact, CPS announced that it will shut down a 900MW coal-fired plant by 2018, a Texas first.
Greens spend much of their time and money trying to make energy more expensive so that people will consume less of it or consume more of the ‘right kind’ — expensive and inefficient energy produced by alternative sources like wind and solar power. This is an uphill battle and puts greens on the wrong side of politics more often than not. More expensive energy means fewer jobs and less freedom, and surprisingly large numbers of people object.Energy efficiency is something else. People actually like lower energy bills — and of course if people consume less energy there will be less pressure on the environment. If the green movement could bring itself to shift its own energy and commitment from Solyndra-type grand interventions to conservation and efficiency projects, the world would be a cleaner and greener place.More efficient energy use won’t solve all the world’s problems, and it doesn’t satisfy the statist, anti-capitalist instincts of many environmental activists, but it offers the environmental movement its most promising route of advance under contemporary conditions. The key to all politics is to give the people what they want — and what they want is cheaper energy and more jobs. The greens’ job isn’t to change human nature; it’s to connect what people want with what our planet needs.Efficiency is a good place to start.