Energy efficiency must be a focus for our future

Energy consumption in America is projected to grow 14 percent by 2035, with fossil fuels accounting for nearly 80 percent of that growth, according to the International Energy Agency.

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Energy-efficient technologies and practices are essential to a sustainable future. Energy consumption in America is projected to grow 14 percent by 2035, with fossil fuels accounting for nearly 80 percent of that growth, according to the International Energy Agency.

Providing energy at affordable prices is a challenge and will require all the technology breakthroughs we can bring to bear. It will require investment. And it will require prudent legislation leading to better practices that promote energy efficiency in government, at home, at the office and on the factory floor.

As energy costs rise, there are strong incentives to improve energy efficiency and save money, while reducing air emissions. The dramatic switch to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs is a good example. Market dynamics have reduced the price of LED bulbs, which can cut energy use by more than 80 percent.

Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology is another example and many say it is the “next big thing” in lighting. That’s why companies are investing in new technologies in this area. This includes PPG Industries, which recently opened a world-class OLED materials production facility at its Barberton, Ohio, plant. The market for OLED products, including smartphones, televisions and solid-state lighting applications, continues to grow. PPG wants to play a leading role in these technology developments.

More and more, private and public interests must pull together in a determined and unified way to develop energy-saving technologies and materials. Collaboration and cooperation can make great things happen. It can lead to new opportunities for innovation, new markets, new partnerships, growth, prosperity and jobs that go with it.

Sensible, pragmatic legislation can help. Fortunately, legislation has been introduced to spur energy efficiency across America. It’s bipartisan, entirely voluntary for the private sector and would not add to the deficit.

The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), would make it easier for the private sector to voluntarily apply energy-efficient motor and transformer technologies. The U.S. government  — the country’s largest (and some would say most profligate) energy consumer — would employ energy-saving technologies and practices to work to save taxpayer dollars. Federal agencies would use existing funds to update plans for new federal buildings with the latest building efficiency standards.

Public-private cooperation gives the bill a solid foundation. For example, the bill calls for the federal government to work with the states and private industry to enhance national building codes to make new homes and buildings more energy efficient. It promotes research and development with the Department of Energy, working with private sector partners to research, develop and commercialize new energy-efficiency technologies. A new voluntary DOE program, called SupplySTAR, would help make industry’s supply chains more efficient. And university-based centers would train the next generation of energy-efficient building design and operation experts.

The bill enjoys endorsements from more than 250 business, labor and environmental groups. That’s no surprise. One recent study estimates that, by 2030, the legislation would create 136,000 new jobs, nearly $14 billion in annual savings and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by the equivalent of 22 million cars.

Can our elected officials rise above partisanship and gridlock to help make our country more energy efficient and economically competitive? We should hope to see that soon.

Bryan Iams is vice president of corporate and government affairs for Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries.

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