The most effective way to reduce energy costs is for homeowners, private companies and governments to work together. A Pennsylvania law dubbed an "unqualified success" by an impartial observer exemplifies the benefits of this type of relationship and should encourage all Americans to create energy-efficient homes.
In 2008, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell signed Act 129 into law, with ambitious goals to require the state's seven major utility companies to reduce overall electricity load by 1 percent before May 31, 2011 and by 3 percent before May 31, 2013. According to an independent audit by Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture), all but one company was able to accomplish that goal.
One of the utility companies, Allegheny Power, implemented several programs intended to improve energy efficiency, including offering financial incentives to customers who reduce their electricity use or shift their usage to times when demand is lower. In addition, customers can receive rebates for purchasing energy-efficient appliances and are offered home energy audits that identify aspects of the home that could benefit from green enhancements.
Altogether, the seven companies were able to reduce energy costs by $278 million statewide due to a 41 percent drop in demand for electricity – more than 2,000 gigawatt-hours.
"These successes come at a very low cost," said PennFuture senior energy policy analyst Courtney Lane. "For every dollar spent on Act 129 programs, customers receive $8 in energy savings over the life of the measures. The energy savings law has truly been a triple win: for our citizens, our economy, and our environment. Now, we need to stay on that winning path."
A qualified home inspection professional in the Tri-State area can conduct an energy audit on any local home and suggest areas of improvement. The Pennsylvania program, and others like it in the United States, will set homeowners on a path toward energy efficiency.