A President’s Day celebration of savings

By Allie Astor
Energy Efficiency Campaign, Associate

Over President’s Day Weekend, there is no doubt that we’ll see a flurry of commercials on our televisions, newspapers, magazines and social media about saving big on new technologies, home decor, clothing and appliances. Up to 35 percent off at The Home Depot, Lowes and Best Buy. Up to 50 percent off select items at Bed Bath & Beyond. An array of sales and discounts on computers and TVs from Dell and Samsung. All the usual suspects are gearing up to draw in crowds of shoppers to take advantage of low prices on new, trendy products

But as we browse the best deals, and consider which products to purchase, it’s important to remember that savings don’t just come on holiday weekends. Thanks to appliance efficiency standards, we benefit from savings all year round for our planet, health and pocketbooks.

Since 1974, when the first appliance and equipment efficiency standards were enacted in California, such standards have served as one of the nation’s most effective policies in saving American consumers energy and money. By reducing energy use, the standards lessen our reliance on natural gas and oil, minimizing the need for more risky pipelines and dangerous methods of extraction. They also help cut down on climate-altering carbon dioxide emissions and air pollutants, like nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, that are harmful to human health.

According to the Department of Energy, more than 60 products are covered under appliance efficiency standards -- which represent 90 percent of home energy use, 60 percent of commercial building energy use, and 30 percent of industrial energy use. It is estimated that, by 2035, the savings from products meeting existing standards will lower annual electricity consumption by around 14 percent and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 470 million metric tons, equivalent to the annual emissions of 118 coal-fired power plants. Over the same time frame, a typical household will save around $320 per year on their energy bills as a result of current standards.

So while U.S. consumers take advantage of savings this holiday weekend, we want to highlight the savings we get all year-round from energy efficiency laws.

Despite the fact that efficiency standards are a win win for our environment and wallets, they have come under recent threat from the Trump administration. On Feb. 6, the U.S. Department of Energy released a plan to revoke Obama-era energy efficiency rules for light bulbs. This proposed rollback would lead to 34 million metric tons more climate-altering carbon pollution annually by 2025 -- equal to more than 7 million cars and impose at least $12 billion each year in electric bill increases.

But while the Trump administration works to diminish energy savings and take us backwards, action in the states provides the opportunity to advance energy efficiency. Bills have already been filed this year in Massachusetts and Washington, and at least half a dozen other states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Rhode Island are looking at doing the same.

If the standards being considered in these states were adopted across the country, it would result in annual savings of approximately 20 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity by 2025, according to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. That's enough to power over 1.9 million houses for a year, according to Environment America calculations.

In addition to electricity savings, in less than a decade the standards would save enough water to meet the annual water consumption needs of over 2 million average U.S. households. They would also prevent as much carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere as taking almost 2.4 million cars off of the road each year. The standards would also reduce smog-causing pollution (nitrogen oxides) and fine particulate pollution (sulfur dioxide). All told, if put into effect, appliance efficiency standards would also save U.S. consumers over $6 billion annually by 2025.

This President’s Day, let’s move beyond the flashy, bright advertisements that cross our television screens and recognize the tremendous savings that appliance efficiency standards provide to protect our planet, our health and pocketbooks.

History shows that once a number of states adopt energy-saving standards, the rest of the country follows. It’s time for states to lead the way.