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Chicken or the Egg? A brief history of Energy Efficiency Funding

I own an energy service company, officially an ESCo, and my parents still have energy-hogging, T12 Fluorescent bulbs in one of their Midwest commercial buildings. I guess you could say I am not doing my job. The broader story is that the cost of electricity where they live is so low that the cost of the upgrade is not justified, and they are of the belief that energy efficiency, global warming and other such topics are either insubordinate issues and/or a government conspiracy.

Whether or not the concept is a conspiracy does not change the math in which the newer technology uses less electricity, burning less fuel, than the older technology, ultimately costing the consumer less. The math is rather simple and easily calculated, assuming all variables are accurate. Nevertheless, who is pushing the technology revolution? Advancements in technology require deeper support than just an idea. What good is an electric car if there are no charging stations available anywhere other than your home? How helpful is an LED strip if it is not compatible with the buildings current infrastructure? Why would any person replace something that is meeting their needs for something that also works, or fix something that isn’t broke? The benefits must outweigh the current state.

The energy consumption benefits of newer technology most certainly outweigh the current usage. However, the cost of technology has been so high that without an additional incentive or increased fueling costs, it made no sense to change the current state. Which leads to the question: have the consumption rates increased in order to afford incentives to buy down the cost of technology or has technology advanced so far that the benefit of upgrading outweighs the cost of the upgrade?

Countries with the highest energy costs and most governmental incentives are also those with the most efficient, “green” systems. In the US, the East Coast and the West Coast have the highest energy costs as well as the most lucrative incentive programs to support upgrades. There, you will likely find many more LED parking lots, solarized homes, and green businesses. The US has set goals of doubling energy productivity by 2030 relative to 2011. Regardless of the conspiracy theory the reality is that rates are increasing rapidly leading to strong demands for more efficient systems. Incentive programs are spreading but are not long-lived. Do you upgrade and take advantage of the tax incentives and utility incentives now or risk losing out on the additional funding to support the upgrade? The choice is yours.

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