BY SAMANTHA PAGE – – – –
The Clinton campaign released the first component of its climate plan, outlining how efficiency programs could reduce the average American’s household bills by $600 a year — a national decrease of $70 billion.
The plan calls for reducing energy waste in American buildings — including homes, businesses and government buildings — by a third within 10 years.
Clinton plans to achieve this by improving building codes, retrofitting federal buildings, and including efficiency calculations in home pricing. She also wants to eliminate the use of “expensive and highly polluting” oil and propane for home heating — an issue that particularly affects residents in New England. The plan was announced as former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton transitions her campaign to New Hampshire, where the next primary will be held on February 9.
According to the campaign’s factsheet, nearly 70 percent of New Hampshire homes use heating oil, exposing them to fluctuations in price and contributing to local air pollution. New Hampshire is 11th in the nation for price of home heating oil, after nine Northeastern states and North Carolina.
In fact, New Hampshire has some of the most expensive energy in the country, especially for residential and industrial electricity, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.
Clinton’s plan largely builds on existing federal programs, while encouraging states and local communities through a proposed $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge.
Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders, also included energy efficiency in his wide-ranging climate plan, released in December. Sanders has criticized Clinton for not offering a complete climate package. The candidate does have a climate issue page, but the building efficiency plan appears to be her first specific plan on climate.
Increasing efficiency will be critical to lowering the country’s emissions. As of 2014, the country was using less than half its energy productively.
According to analysis from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the United States wastes 60 percent of the energy it produces. Most of this waste occurs in the electricity generation and transportation sectors. In fact, transportation, which accounts for 27 percent of U.S. emissions, is only 20 percent efficient, while electricity is a little more than 25 percent efficient and accounts for a third of the country’s emissions.
Those numbers leave a lot of room for improvement.
According to NOAA, the United States could reduce emissions from electricity production by nearly 80 percent over the next 15 years.
Whether New Hampshire will respond to the plan remains to be seen. Most of the Republican candidates’ plans seem to rely on increased drilling and fracking to reduce energy costs — New Hampshire gets all its oil and gas from outside the state.
And New Hampshire itself seems a little torn on how best to keep costs down. Last year, the state House voted to defund New Hampshire’s energy efficiency programs — which are funded by participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a nine-state cap-and-trade program. Under RGGI, electricity bills have decreased, while also lowering the region’s carbon emissions. RGGI also boosted the local economy, according to one recent analysis, largely through reinvestment of the money states collect for carbon credit purchases.
The defunding initiative ultimately failed, but future challenges to RGGI-funded programs are likely.
In 2013, the last year for which there is data, the RGGI program funded $8.2 million towards efficiency programs and provided another $9.7 million in directly to bill-payers in New Hampshire.