Hot enough for you? Midwest leads the way against climate change
September 4, 2012 12:47 PM
The following op-ed appears in the September 3, 2012 issue of Crain’s Chicago Business:
Your View: Midwest leads the way against climate change
By: Ellen Alberding September 01, 2012
As we end one of the hottest summers in history, there has been a change in the conversation about global warming. It hits home when we feel the heat on our daily commutes or see drought destroying Midwest crops. Climate models indicate that impacts like these will become more common unless we reduce the carbon pollution that is driving global warming.
Cutting energy waste and increasing efficiency reduce carbon output and yield significant results quickly. According to a national study funded by the Joyce Foundation and conducted by the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, Americans know that boosting energy efficiency is essential but that it is difficult to change their habits. Eighty-nine percent of respondents say they don't know how to reduce their demand; 64 percent cite people's unwillingness to use less energy as the major reason for the country's energy problems.
The good news: The Midwest is emerging as a leader in energy efficiency.
Bipartisan action by policymakers around our region has established some of the country's strongest statewide standards that require utilities to take part of what they would have spent on power every year and instead spend that money helping businesses and residents improve energy efficiency.
According to Illinois' efficiency standard, Commonwealth Edison Co. spends more than $150 million every year helping business and residential customers in the Chicago region save energy, including education initiatives. So far, those savings are enough to power more than 400,000 homes for a year.
The cumulative impact will cut overall electricity use in the Midwest by 10 percent or more by 2020. That means hundreds of millions of dollars in annual energy bill savings in our region. And these investments create jobs, because insulation or new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment doesn't install itself.
Other Chicago businesses are stepping up, too. The Retrofit Chicago Commercial Building Initiative that Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced this summer has already engaged owners of 14 downtown buildings to reduce energy use by at least 20 percent within five years. Nationally, buildings consume nearly half of all energy produced in the United States, so improving their efficiency has a real impact.
So far this year, the Joyce Foundation has awarded 15 grants totaling more than $4 million to advance energy efficiency in Illinois and neighboring states.
If you own or manage a large building in Chicago, consider joining the Retrofit Chicago initiative. Examine energy-efficiency opportunities as you plan 2013 budgets. Many efficiency improvements pay for themselves in a year or two—or less.
The stakes are high, and the steps we can take are good for the environment and for business.