New England could decrease its energy use by 18% by using currently available technologies to increase efficiency, according to a report by a coalition of environmental groups, says the Hartford Courant.
The report's recommendations for cutting energy consumption - which would also reduce the region's greenhouse gas emissions - depend on a combination of improving efficiency and using more renewable energy. Key proposals include adopting more efficient technologies for heating, cooling and lighting residential and commercial buildings; increasing fuel economy standards for vehicles; and building wind and solar powered generators in the New England region.
Roger Smith, the campaign director for the Connecticut chapter of Clean Water Action, one of the groups that produced the report, said New England does not need to wait for new technologies before cutting energy use significantly. "If we're ever going to reach our goals, we need to take action now," he said.Solar energy and insulating homes should be on the top of the agenda for Connecticut, Smith said. Wind is probably not a viable source of energy for the state, he said, and any improvements to fuel economy standards cannot be accomplished on the state level.Weatherizing houses would provide immediate reductions in home heating costs, Smith said, and installing solar panels would reduce electricity bills. Although solar panels are not a replacement for conventional power generation, they would take the edge off demand during peak periods - muggy, summer weekdays when factories are humming and businesses and consumers use air conditioning.An 18 percent reduction in energy consumption is "definitely doable," as long as the state continues to support incentives for efficiency, said Jeff Gaudiosi, chairman of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund."The higher the rates go, the more we see people starting to get involved in the efficiency program," he said.Interest in the program has increased significantly in recent years, Gaudiosi said, but the state government has taken money out of the fund to support general expenses. If that continues, the fund may have to reduce the incentives it offers companies who invest in more efficient technology, he said.
But Angela Carter, a lobbyist representing 14 New England power plants, said the region's energy problems cannot be solved with efficiency measures alone."There is no silver bullet," Carter said. "You cannot conserve your way out of the need to build infrastructure."The "anemic" transmission system in Connecticut needs to be overhauled, she said, and more power plants are needed to meet existing demands. Although renewable energy is an "essential component" of Connecticut's energy production, Carter said, past attempts to build renewable facilities have faced difficulties in finding suitable locations.
IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.