Amid efforts to reduce carbon emissions, Tony Evers' administration eyes Wisconsin building codes

In the story of climate change, smokestacks and tailpipes are the stock villains, spewing carbon dioxide into the air.

Often overlooked are homes, offices and other buildings — which require electricity and natural gas to heat, cool and light — that account for nearly a third of all energy consumption and an even larger share of heat-trapping gases.

Energy Efficiency: The Pathway to Economic Recovery in the U.S. Midwest

Throughout the last decade, energy efficiency has been the quiet workhorse in the United States’ Midwestern region: Saving consumers and businesses money, reducing emissions, and positively impacting communities – urban, suburban and rural – across the region.

... Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has been devasting to our industry. Through May 2020, 131,660 Midwest clean energy workers have filed for unemployment; 91,992 of those were energy efficiency workers. So how can energy efficiency be the pathway to economic recovery?

Despite grim outlook, advanced energy could help lead economic recovery, experts say

Advanced energy — including energy efficiency and renewable power  — provide far more jobs than hotels and motels or the retail industry, according to a recent analysis by the business group Advanced Energy Economy. 

Yet while there’s been much focus on the pandemic’s effect on those industries, AEE says, not enough attention has been paid to what the government could do to protect and bolster advanced energy jobs. 

Utility efficiency programs offer model to merge climate, racial justice solutions

Many states require utilities to help low-income customers conserve energy despite higher costs and barriers.

As urgency grows to simultaneously address climate change and racial justice through proposals like the Green New Deal, low-income energy efficiency programs provide a potential example of how to merge the priorities. 

The time is right to bolster such programs since the pandemic’s economic effects mean more households will likely need assistance with energy bills, advocates say. 

Budding Midwest marijuana industry could send energy use sky-high

But energy efficiency measures could blunt the impact.

Recreational marijuana recently became legal in Illinois and Michigan. But for cannabis plants to thrive year-round in the Midwest, they must be grown indoors. So as the industry expands, its energy use could easily get, well, pretty high.

“Lighting is one of the largest energy uses of an indoor cultivation facility, followed closely by heating and cooling and then dehumidification,” says Molly Graham of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.

Efficiency businesses consider an uncertain future with COVID-19

Like workers across the country, energy efficiency professionals are on precarious footing as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds.

Non-essential work has been ordered to stop in many places, unless employees can work from home. In some cases, contracting work is allowed as long as workers can maintain appropriate social distance.

This puts efficiency contractors in a challenging position: Their work isn’t deemed “essential,” and much of it takes place in those now-crowded homes — whether it’s an energy audit, weatherization or installing a new heating and cooling system.

Will Kansas City stick to climate pledge or bow to pressure from homebuilders?

As Kansas City considers updating its building energy code, city officials are weighing the city’s climate commitments against concerns from homebuilders.

Adopting the latest international standards without revisions likely would increase costs for homebuilders but save energy and money for homeowners.

Builders have generally opposed the new code without amendments, while energy efficiency advocates say it is necessary if the city is serious about fighting climate change.