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August 7, 2023 Opinion & Commentary

Energy efficiency holds key to unlocking a thriving CT climate economy

Al Subbloie

People from Connecticut aren’t the type to shy away from a challenge — the matter of climate change should be no different.

The state has set some pretty ambitious goals, including cutting carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and generating all energy from zero-carbon sources just a decade later.

Unfortunately, according to the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, progress has stalled, and emissions have actually ticked up in the past couple of years.

Meeting the state’s climate goals will not be simple, but it does present a clear opportunity to build a thriving energy-efficient economy in Connecticut. Specifically, one that creates healthier communities, brings thousands of jobs to the state and supports a strong GDP.

Energy efficiency is one of the most undervalued tools that local communities have to enable economic opportunity and make considerable, measurable progress toward net zero. Unlocking its full value, however, requires strong public and private investment to help the state’s small business community be more energy efficient.

It’s important to note that today’s energy efficiency technologies far surpass your grandpa’s LED lights.

Sure, things like heat pumps and refrigeration controls may seem mundane compared to flashy electric vehicles or gigawatt-scale offshore wind turbines, but they can have a massively positive impact on both the day-to-day operations of Connecticut’s small businesses, and the planet.

Technologies like heat pumps come with far lower lifetime ownership costs compared to gas or electric utilities, which makes switching to more efficient energy systems not just good for the climate, but good for business, too.

For example, according to the Department of Energy, homeowners can save up to $1,000 per year by switching from an HVAC system to a heat pump, while high-efficiency air conditioners could reduce homeowners’ energy use by 20% to 50%. Energy-intensive businesses, such as the state’s 10,000 or so restaurants, can save up to 10 times that amount.

Energy efficiency technologies are also extremely attractive assets for investors seeking ways to reduce their portfolio’s emissions.

Indeed, the energy efficiency sector is set to exceed $600 billion in investment this year alone as governments and businesses increasingly recognize its many advantages.

In particular, energy efficiency offers Connecticut a scalable and affordable way to meet its climate goals while also helping improve the physical and fiscal well-being of its residents and business owners.

According to some estimates, the mainstream adoption of energy-efficient technologies throughout Connecticut could generate cost savings of up to $70 million annually and lower energy use across the state by 243 gigawatt-hours per year by 2035, or the equivalent of consuming 7 million gallons of gasoline less per year.

Importantly, Connecticut’s small business community could greatly benefit from public and private sector support for energy efficiency. These businesses are the backbone of the state’s economy, employing nearly half of all workers.

Unfortunately, many of them are still recovering from pandemic-related challenges, in addition to having to contend with inflation and rising energy costs.

As the health of Connecticut’s economy is intrinsically tied to the success of these businesses, providing opportunities for relief through energy efficiency seems like an obvious solution.

Energy efficient technologies can slash small business’ energy consumption by up to 40%, massively reducing operating costs, creating new job opportunities, and advancing Connecticut’s net-zero targets.

More than 150 small businesses statewide — ranging from restaurant franchises like McDonald’s, Subway and Dunkin’, to Ryders Health Management and local YMCAs — have already embraced energy efficiency to save money and drive down emissions.

To date, these businesses have avoided using over 15,500 megawatt-hours of energy, which equates to taking nearly 2,500 gas vehicles off the road each year.

Equipping the remaining 360,000 small and medium businesses throughout Connecticut with efficient upgrades would go a long way toward meeting the state’s climate goals.

Al Subbloie owns Subway franchises in Southport and Woodbridge, and is the CEO of Budderfly Inc., an energy efficiency company based in Shelton.

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