I know many of you have come to see the Prosperity Blog as a unique source of insight and analysis on our region’s economic development activities. So, it will disappoint you to no end that I don’t have a lot to say about this article except that it’s a really good summary of one of the main issues for the energy efficiency market: that the demand for energy efficiency upgrades is hampered by the bad economy and the large upfront costs. The one additional piece of thought (“piece of thought?”) I’ll offer is this: I’m really glad that they discussed the supply side opportunity, because I don’t think a lot of folks do.
What I mean by “supply side” is that I’m differentiating from all the positives that come from a region like ours being more energy efficient: lower energy costs for businesses/property owners, smaller carbon footprint, less need for generation increasing investment by local utilities. But that is all “demand side” benefit, and I’ve come to believe very strongly that one of the most important things we’re doing with the Metropolitan Business Plan project is beating the drum of local sourcing.
Despite the fact that everyone recognizes that there’s a big advantage to touting the economic development impact of clean technology, I think a lot of people still think of it as more of an environmental priority.
But when Seattle Business talks about Optimum Energy, they’re using an example of a local company that sells energy efficient goods and services. And if Optimum can start to sell their products around the world, they will create lots of permanent jobs here in the region. That’s the “supply side strategy of energy efficiency.”
For example, it’s awesome that the City of Seattle got $20 million in Recovery Act money to retrofit lots of buildings, but their metrics for success are about energy use reduction. So, if they replace everyone’s light bulbs and windows with Chinese made products, they still consider it good. However, the biggest impact from that money will be if they not only weatherize those buildings but also buy local products and services to weatherize those buildings. By doing so, those local energy efficient goods and services companies will get a big boost in the marketplace.