There is agreement among all of the energy experts that energy efficiency is by far the cheapest way to reduce energy costs. Much cheaper than a new coal fired or natural gas power plant, a nuclear reactor or a wind or solar farm.
Here is another way to look at efficiency, the amount of GDP generated by the amount of electricity used in a state.
Source: Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)
The researchers took pains to normalize as much as possible expenditures on heating and cooling based on a given state’s climate. What emerges is a snapshot of the economic productivity of the energy used by each state ($GDP/kWh = Dollars of Gross Domestic Product per Kilowatt hour of electricity).
The difference between any given state and the top ten states in the study is the productivity gap. RMI estimates that if all states closed their productivity gap, the U.S. would save 1.2 million Gigawatt hours per year. That is a lot of energy, and a tremendous amount of money to be saved.
Maybe this is tangential, but I found it interesting that three of the four states whose Republican governors are considering “refusing” stimulus funds from the federal government (at least as of February 20, 2009) are ranked as follows:
Louisiana = Governor Bobby Jindal Ranks #34
South Carolina = Governor Mark Sanford Ranks #47
Mississippi = Governor Haley Barbour Ranks #50
A large part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is for “energy” expenditures ($65 billion in tax incentives and expenditures). Maybe these governors dislike saving energy as much as they dislike taking money that will help their citizens.
In something that will come as no shock to anyone, the State of Alaska is an outlier. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is also thinking about saying “thanks, but no thanks” to the stimulus money. Alaska ranks #2 on the productivity list.
In summary, no matter how you measure it - electric or gas bill, carbon footprint, $GDP/kWh - energy efficiency makes sense and saves dollars.