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EP100 Cooling Challenge
The world is in a pickle when it comes to cooling: We need more cooling as temperatures rise – with some of the world’s most populous cities expected to see increases between 2°C and 8°C by 2050 – yet we risk contributing to global warming even more if we emit more greenhouse gases through air-conditioning and refrigeration. Not to mention, demand for cooling will further increase as it becomes more accessible to emerging economies. Electricity demand for air conditioning worldwide is projected to increase by more than 140% by 2050. Left unchecked, the related emissions could nearly double in comparison to 2016. These challenges are why EP100, our global initiative with the Climate Group for companies committed to doing more with less energy, elevated its focus this year on sustainable cooling solutions.
Montgomery County microgrid.
Microgrids have received a lot of buzz in recent years, and with good reason: Microgrids are smack in the middle of trends including digitalization, decarbonization, and demand flexibility that are enabling a more resilient, flexible, and efficient energy system. As the Alliance’s Active Efficiency Collaborative explores the innovations unlocking new potential in the world of energy efficiency, here’s a look at what microgrids are and what’s ahead for their implementation.
Cannabis energy intensity.
The U.S. House of Representatives will likely vote this month on two pieces of legislation that could have major impacts on energy consumption. One – an energy innovation companion to the Senate’s American Energy Innovation Act – has obvious efficiency components. The other may fly under your “energy efficiency” radar: marijuana legalization. Indoor cannabis cultivation is one of the most energy-intensive industries, spending an estimated $6 billion on energy annually. That’s a hefty electricity bill, matching that of the federal government powering its facilities.
Energy efficiency worker installing insulation.
Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the Alliance has called on Congress to pass a stimulus package with strong energy efficiency provisions to counter staggering job losses in the sector while also building back better. We have prioritized strengthening efficiency tax incentives, modernizing critical public facilities and transportation infrastructure, and creating grants to help small businesses improve efficiency – proposals that would quickly get this workforce back on its feet. Now, a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) confirms just how impactful these policies could be, not just in creating jobs but also in lowering energy bills and sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The ACEEE report examined 17 proposed policy solutions from efficiency advocates – including the Alliance – covering buildings, transportation, and the industrial sector. Overall, it found that the proposals could create more than 1.3 million jobs, avoid 910 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and save $120 billion on energy bills for households and businesses.
Digitalization.
In a matter of decades, digital technologies have transformed our lives on an individual and societal level – and it’s just the beginning. From 3D printing to self-driving vehicles, digital applications will continue to define and drive innovation across sectors. Energy efficiency is no exception: The Alliance’s Active Efficiency Collaborative is working to accelerate the integration of traditional energy efficiency measures with digital technologies to drive further efficiency gains. So, what exactly does digitalization mean?
Port of Long Beach.
Ports are essential, dynamic lifelines of the U.S. economy. Every year, the 926+ coastal, Great Lakes, and inland harbor maritime ports contribute over 26% to overall GDP (approximately $5 trillion). For every $1 billion in economic commerce, approximately 15,000 jobs are created. Today, ports support 31 million jobs and ensure that food, medicine, and supplies reach hospitals and vulnerable populations during COVID-19 lockdowns. Despite their critical role in our economy, the federal government has severely underinvested in ports. Container terminals are too small and inefficient to accommodate increasingly large container ships (some the length of four football fields). This leads to supply chain delays, as ships must wait for weeks to unload goods, and forces industries to have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on additional inventory as a result. Meanwhile, communities living near ports are disproportionally impacted by air emissions.
Showerhead.
On the heels of President Trump’s recent claim that consumers are running washing machines “five times” and spending “20 minutes longer” in the shower because appliance efficiency standards have weakened product performance, the Department of Energy (DOE) last week proposed two rules that would roll back water and energy efficiency standards for clothes washers, clothes dryers, and showerheads. The Administration’s proposals – which circumvent long-standing law by creating new product classes – ignore the benefits of appliance standards, which save families money on their utility bills, address environmental issues including critical water shortages due to drought and greenhouse gas emissions, and are a catalyst for American innovation. But most importantly, the justifications are simply wrong. Washing machines, dryers, and showerheads perform better than ever before.
Rural broadband.
In a matter of a couple decades, broadband has gone from being a luxury to a necessity for full participation in our economy and society. In fact, the United Nations has declared that equitable access to the internet is necessary to enable individuals to exercise their right to freedom of expression and “promote the progress of society as a whole.” Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that around 30 million Americans still lack reliable access to the internet. Aside from affording folks the opportunity to apply for jobs, access healthcare, pay bills, and stay plugged in to the news, a reliable internet connection is also increasingly important to helping lower home energy usage.
Energy efficiency worker.
When last month’s clean energy unemployment analysis was released, we here at the Alliance were pleased to see that after devastating job losses since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the energy efficiency sector added back 71,800 jobs in June. However, with hundreds of thousands of efficiency workers still unemployed, we knew it was far too early to breathe easy, and many questions remained about whether the growth would hold. Unfortunately, July’s report – released today by E2, E4TheFuture, and other partners – confirms what we suspected: energy efficiency job growth stagnated in July, adding back just 2,100 jobs for a growth rate of 0.1%.
Modern buildings.
While transportation and industry tend to come to mind when people think of the primary culprits of energy consumption, another sector globally actually tops that list: buildings. In June, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Johnson Controls released the beta version of the Building Efficiency Targeting Tool for Energy Retrofits (BETTER) – a free, open-source web application available here. By analyzing easily-accessible building data and energy usage in response to weather conditions, BETTER quickly benchmarks a building’s or portfolio’s energy use against peers and quantifies actual energy, cost, and greenhouse gas reduction potential. BETTER is then able to recommend energy efficiency improvements to turn this potential into reality.

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