Over 2.2 million jobs in the US are attributed to the energy-efficiency industry, outpacing jobs in oil and gas by up to ten times.
While renewables are certainly at the forefront of the energy efficiency movement, other industries extending from industrial manufacturing to residential/commercial construction are being transformed by the energy-efficiency trend.
For example, energy consulting now employs thermal inspections and RESNET energy standards to ensure that new US buildings are built to maximize energy efficiency.
Driving this transformation is a mix of changing market dynamics and energy regulations promulgated mainly on the state and local levels. Let’s explore some of the positive impacts of energy regulations for businesses and Americans over the long term.
List of Common Energy Regulations and Offers
- Tax Credits: Under the Inflation Reduction Act, a 10% tax credit is being applied to all energy-efficiency appliances that qualify, amounting to 10% of the total cost. The credit will increase to 30% in 2023. The act also extends to newly built residential homes that qualify for an Energy Star tax credit, incentivizing greater energy efficiency in construction.
- CAFE Standards: All 2026 passenger and light-duty truck models will be required to meet a fuel-efficiency standard of 49 mpg. Not only do CAFE standards help eliminate GHGs, but they make your car more fuel efficient.
- Energy Star Benchmarking: The ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® is already being used to track up to 25% of commercial buildings in the US and provides them a rating based on how efficient their energy usage is. Commercial builders can benchmark their energy usage to help set investment priorities and implement changes that yield greater long-term savings.
- Energy Efficiency Mortgages: Energy efficiency mortgages (EEM) are federally backed mortgages that allow homeowners to finance clean energy repairs or replacements to their homes using conventional, FHA, or VA-backed loans. This credit program offers homeowners an easy way to tap into energy savings.
- Carbon Credits: Carbon credits are issued by regulatory agencies designed to cap the amount of CO2 a business or landowner generates. In theory, carbon credits can be exchanged if emitters don’t meet their carbon output cap or purchased from other companies if they exceed it. This provides a financial incentive to use as few emissions as possible.
- State and Local Funding: The Energy Department works with many states and municipalities to provide loans and grants for clean energy projects that benefit communities and help reduce pollution and GHGs.
Benefits of Energy Efficiency Regulations
While energy regulations have direct financial benefits for many Americans, including homeowners and business owners, several additional benefits come with increased investment in clean energy.
No industry has benefited more from the renewable energy push than the solar industry. One mechanism pushing the solar boom is the ITC tax credit, which provides a 30% reduction in income taxes for homeowners that install solar panels.
Since allocated, the ITC has helped create a 200x increase in the number of solar jobs in the US.
Currently, the total number of jobs in the energy efficiency sector sits at 2.2 million and is one of the fastest growing in the US. It’s also estimated that 99.8% of counties in the US employ energy efficiency jobs.
However, these numbers don’t even include figures from indirect and induced jobs resulting from the savings Americans will enjoy from cheaper energy and increased investment in the clean energy grid. Overall, the energy-efficiency sector is bringing renewed prosperity to Americans at a time when natural gas and other fossil fuels are becoming more unreliable.
Perhaps the best part of the renewable energy push is that it creates good jobs that are safe and fulfilling. While federal regulations fuel growth, so does private equity, which tripled its investment in solar in 2021.
This high growth potential means more opportunities for workers who take jobs in the renewable field. However, these jobs are not just installers and maintenance men working on transmission and repair. Solar sales allow people to work from home or the office and is considered one of the best career prospects for young people to enter right now.
Further, studies have also confirmed that people who work in energy-efficiency fields earn a higher hourly salary than the median wage of the average US worker.
Reduced Electricity Use and Costs
On the flip side, homeowners and businesses also benefit from greater energy efficiency, which helps fuel economic growth.
According to research by Electric Power Research Institute, states can reduce electricity usage nationwide by 16% by 2035 by implementing commonsense energy regulations. In total, this would save the average state 12%-21% on their utilities, yielding significant savings over time for homeowners and businesses.
Furthermore, the switch to energy-efficient usage and transmission also saves utility companies money on repairs to transmission lines and power plants. Over time, lowering electricity demand by achieving better insulation and energy efficiency also reduces the amount of investment needed to patch and maintain transmission grids.
The final point also comes with the added benefit of making energy transmission more reliable.
By diversifying utility portfolios with multiple energy sources and reducing demand, states are better equipped to handle shocks in the supply chain, like what is being experienced in Europe now.
Another added benefit of the switch to cleaner and renewable products is safer buildings. Unfortunately, old combustion heat systems and light sources are significant fire hazards and can even leak harmful gases into the air.
Similar to how the switch from asbestos to safer materials has improved the health of homeowners, the switch to clean-burning biomass stoves and electric appliances is much safer for the health of everyday Americans.
Finally, we cannot overstate the environmental impact that energy efficiency has on the US. Fortunately, initiatives in the US have already resulted in a 20% reduction in greenhouse emissions since 2005.
Further, energy and environmental regulations are also crucial for preserving ecosystems, preventing pollution, and fighting back against animal extinction. For example, stormwater management plans guided by the NPDES regulations and the Clean Water Act have helped to curb pollution in waterways across the US.
Though we still have a long way to go, clean energy policies and increased investment make a huge difference.
Path Light Pro is committed to helping our clients become more energy efficient and regulatory compliant. Our energy and environmental consulting services will ensure that your building project passes all proper inspections and is optimized to make your finished product as clean and energy efficient as possible.