Opinion

Proposed federal budget cuts could hurt thousands of CO energy jobs

Author: Lauren Poole - January 19, 2018 - Updated: January 19, 2018

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Lauren Poole

Proposed federal budget cuts endanger thousands of well-paying clean energy jobs in Colorado. Colorado’s diverse energy sector includes more than 30,000 jobs involving energy efficiency, more than any other part of the energy sector (more than solar and wind, oil, natural gas, or coal), according to a 2017 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Many of these jobs involve members of the Colorado Energy Efficiency Business Coalition (EEBC), a statewide trade association of non-utility companies that provide energy efficiency products and services in Colorado. For example, our members produce energy-efficient windows, insulation, heating and cooling equipment, and other energy-efficient products, which the state exports nationally and internationally. Other Colorado companies and EEBC members help retrofit Colorado’s homes and businesses with more energy-efficient lighting, heating, air conditioning, and other equipment.

These well-paying jobs cannot be outsourced because they involve hands-on work like construction and trades. These are exactly the kinds of jobs that Colorado needs to encourage. These workers spend their wages on local goods and services, which also helps the state’s economy.

There are other benefits of energy efficiency products and services. Consumers and businesses save more money on their energy bills than they spend by paying for energy efficiency upgrades. And when consumers and businesses spend less to heat, cool and light their homes and buildings, they have more to spend on other goods, producing additional revenue for other local businesses.

Yet the Trump administration and the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed devastating cuts (more than 40 percent in the House budget, 75 percent cuts in the administration’s budget) to these energy efficiency programs that benefit Colorado in the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2018.

For example, DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing and Building Technologies Offices fund research and development of new energy-efficient technologies, such as through the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden. NREL normally receives about $460 million of federal funding annually for research and development involving energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and renewable energy.

DOE’s weatherization assistance program has provided free energy efficiency upgrades to 10,800 Colorado homes over the past 8 years, saving low-income families about $2.9 million per year in energy costs.

Most Coloradoans also recognize the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, which identifies and labels energy-efficient appliances, equipment and buildings. But ENERGY STAR also faces the budgetary ax.

In short, energy efficiency is a major driver of Colorado’s economy, and the state is becoming more recognized as a clean-energy leader and innovation hub. Colorado businesses continue to leverage DOE and EPA energy efficiency programs to help create jobs and produce energy cost savings.

Any abrupt and significant cuts to federal energy efficiency program funding, including cuts to NREL’s budget, would result in a loss of jobs and increased energy costs for businesses and homes. Such cuts would also hamper our progress towards achieving Colorado’s air pollution reduction and clean energy goals.

Colorado’s congressional delegation has the opportunity to fight for, and build on, Colorado’s leadership in energy efficiency and clean energy by defending these programs. We are calling on our representatives in Congress to do so. These programs benefit Coloradoans and all Americans. Preserving strong funding for the U.S. DOE and EPA energy efficiency programs would brighten the economic future of Colorado and is in our nation’s best interest. We urge Colorado’s Senators and Representatives to take up this cause as the Congress finalizes the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2018.

Lauren Poole

Lauren Poole

Lauren Poole is the executive director of the Colorado Energy Efficiency Business Coalition.