By Doug Coward
Typical Florida homeowners and businesses waste large amounts of energy and money each year because of uninsulated windows, inefficient incandescent light bulbs, and particularly outdated air conditioning systems – all of which use far more energy than necessary and needlessly drive up utility bills and greenhouse gas emissions.
Fortunately, energy efficiency upgrades are cost-effective and an easy way for Floridians to remedy this waste and save substantial amounts of money on their monthly bills. We established the nonprofit Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF) to help homeowners and businesses invest in proven energy efficiency technologies that lower operating costs, increase property values, and provide health benefits and enhanced quality of life. I’ve seen firsthand the transformative impact that simple efficiency upgrades have had on working class families, seniors on fixed incomes, and disabled homeowners.
Florida has tremendous opportunities for energy efficiency, yet our state disappointingly continues to lag behind. In fact, Florida hasn’t updated its energy efficiency policies in nearly 30 years! But this year we have an opportunity to modernize these policies and give utility companies across the state real energy efficiency goals that bring much-needed savings and benefits to hardworking Florida families and businesses.
Through energy efficiency upgrades like LED lighting and high-efficiency air conditioning systems, our clients have reduced their household energy consumption by an average of 25%, and the savings help pay off their loans over time. Countless Floridians struggle to pay their electric bills and often suffer through sweltering heat and humidity. COVID-19 has only exacerbated these problems by increasing residential energy consumption and disrupting family finances.
Expanding access to energy efficiency programs would spread these savings to millions of Floridians while supporting local business and green job growth in the process. The problem is that our current policies have the unintended consequence of creating disincentives for utilities to implement energy savings practices. But that shouldn’t be the case. Florida should encourage and incentivize energy savings by establishing reasonable, measurable, and transparent processes for utilities to set energy efficiency goals.
With such changes in place, Florida would generate lasting clean economic growth that benefits homeowners and small businesses, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, air pollutants, and related health impacts. Clean energy jobs have been the fastest growing job sector in America, and energy efficiency is another job engine for Florida. Most of the 500-plus contractors used by SELF, for example, are family-owned businesses, and our accessible and affordable financing helps them expand their businesses and foster the clean energy economy in Florida.
Florida has the ability to help many more families and businesses across the state through appropriately revised energy efficiency policies that set realistic goals. Floridians need to gain access to energy efficiency upgrades and the benefits they provide. If we all support policies that reward energy savings and modernize Florida’s policies, we can make these life-changing impacts a reality.
Doug Coward is the Founder and Executive Director of the non-profit Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF). For more information about SELF, please visit: www.solarenergyloanfund.org. And to learn more about this issue: EnergySmartFL.com.