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Introduction: The Power of Energy EfficiencyPrint

Clean Energy | September 30, 2013 | By Jim Dulzo

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Some people do it to save money; others to be more comfortable. But whatever their reason, when homeowners or businesspeople invest in energy efficiency, they also strengthen their community.

Energy efficiency puts our contractors to work; boosts local retail sales; keeps more of residents’ hard-earned dollars in town; increases property values; makes the community more attractive; and by lowering overall energy demand, slows the rise of everyone’s energy costs.

Two years ago, Traverse City started down that path. Its publicly owned utility, Traverse City Light & Power, teamed up with the Michigan Land Use Institute, SEEDS, the Department of Energy, Michigan Saves, and local contractors to launch TCSaves—a one-stop, wildly successful program that convinced a remarkable one in every five homeowners in the city to invest in their home’s comfort and efficiency.

Track one of them down and they’ll tell you how much cozier they are and how much money they’re saving on utilities.

That success has many local leaders looking for ways to renew TCSaves’ effective public-private partnership and extend it to every building in the city. In fact, even more local leaders are looking to the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments’ Framework for Our Future project, which is seeking to regionalize the benefits of energy effiency.

Home and business efficiency are, in fact, big deals: Our buildings consume 40 percent of our nation’s energy, and most of them are terribly inefficient—consuming two to three times more energy than similar buildings in comparable European climates. So there’s plenty to be done here, and every advantage to doing it.

Energy efficiency is a terrific bargain. It’s far cheaper than building a new power plant to provide the same amount of energy “generated” by efficiency. Projects pay for themselves even while creating jobs and strengthening the local economy.

The Power of Energy Efficiency introduces some of the people already making Traverse City—and some other places—“efficiency ready”: homeowners, business people, contractors, officials, and experts with first-hand knowledge of just how well energy efficiency works.

We hope their stories and this report inspire you to get involved, too, because attaining our vision will take lots of creativity, teamwork, and leadership. Michigan should be a leader in energy efficiency; our hope is to find a way to make it work for everyone—both Up North and around the state.