How to Plan for Equitable Energy Efficiency in a Pandemic

Equitable energy efficiency may seem like a hardship, especially in a pandemic. However, there are ways to make it happen!

Energy efficiency policy may seem far removed from the immediate need to support COVID-19 pandemic frontline workers and lift up people struggling to pay their bills in this devastating health and economic crisis. But energy-saving programs can help make buildings healthier and more comfortable while sustaining good jobs. By lowering electric and gas bills, these programs also help free up much-needed cash that can be used for food, rent, and medicine, and by municipalities for things like fire stations and schools.

The pandemic has also exposed terrible inequities in our society and is plunging millions of Americans into economic uncertainty. And, as short-term moratoriums on utility shutoffs expire, people facing economic hardships will have a harder time paying their energy bills. This makes it imperative to scale up efficiency programs—especially for those who need it the most—to reduce utility bills in the immediate and long terms.

Furthermore, investing in efficiency programs—like weatherizing buildings or switching out energy-guzzling appliances with efficient versions—can help resurrect the economy and get people back to work. Prior to the pandemic, there were more than 2.3 million energy efficiency jobs and a predicted 3 percent increase—or 70,000 new jobs—by year’s end. Instead, there was a loss of 400,000 energy efficiency jobs through April, alone. Many of these jobs are inherently local as professionals must enter buildings to conduct energy efficiency improvements. When such work halts, it further impacts the local economy already hard hit by the pandemic.

Efficiency is without doubt a critical tool to reduce our energy burdens, sustain and create good jobs, and build the cleaner energy future we all want. But it will take increased action at the state and federal levels to make it happen.

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