In a recent blog post, the NW Energy Coalition (NWEC) discussed the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the clean energy industry and detailed their recent outreach to utility members and partners in the region to hear how they are adapting to the crisis and working with energy efficiency program implementers to keep programming as strong as possible in the long-term. One of the research studies on unemployment data analysis indicates that energy efficiency has been hit the hardest among all other sectors of clean energy, with about 70,000 unemployed workers accounting for two-thirds of clean energy unemployment fillings. NWEC found that with increasing residential energy use, changing business realities and unemployment hovering over energy efficiency workers amidst the health crisis, utilities are quickly adapting and pivoting to enable their programs to serve customers safely. Read the full NWEC blog post for helpful tips from utilities on recovering from the pandemic.
As Governor Inslee recently announced, Washington State is taking a “phased approach” to reopen that incorporates scientific advice from health officials. Advocating for fostering economic growth and environmental improvement, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council (NEEC) sent a letter to Washington State Governor Jay Inslee requesting he prioritize energy efficiency activities in commercial buildings as plans are formulated for reopening the economy, stating that, “The energy efficiency industry has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many states have shuttered their energy efficiency programs while implementing shelter in place policies. Energy efficiency relies upon upgrades and improvements to equipment inside of buildings, and as long as these projects are stalled so too are the energy savings and actual impacts on our climate goals.” We were pleased to hear from several members that much of the activity that had been stalled has resumed, although we understand there are still some uncertainties around initiating new projects.
As plans unfold for reopening and stimulating the economy, it is vital to look at some of the win-win opportunities offered by the energy efficiency industry. Along with other major benefits, energy efficiency not only boosts economic competitiveness of business but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) in their recent post emphasized that energy efficiency can boost economies quickly, with long-lasting benefits. Stressing how early action focused on what is already in place could be scaled up, IEA stated, “We have learned many lessons from previous stimulus programs and other attempts to generate large-scale activity quickly.” They then go on to reference examples of existing programs that could be expanded or invested in to help spur economic activity such as tax incentives, grant programs, existing efficiency programs etc. NEEC will be looking at examples within our own region of projects, programs and other initiatives that could be expanded to help spur additional regional economic activity as we look to reopen and stimulate the economy.