Environmentally conscious energy efficiency efforts

by Christine Kehoe


y now, all Californians understand the importance of energy conservation in order to avoid continued and massive rolling blackouts. As our temperatures continue to rise, the necessity of air conditioning becomes more prevalent, especially for those Californians living in the desert where temperatures soar past the 100-degree mark with great regularity.

    We must continue to be aggressive in our efforts to reduce energy demand. Every megawatt of electricity saved this summer is a megawatt California avoids buying on the expensive spot market. While we are working to get more power plants up and running, a more immediate set of solutions lies with individual Californians using less energy, and being more efficient with the energy we do use.

Efficiency rebate bill


    Governor Gray Davis recently signed energy legislation, including my Assembly Bill 29x, to provide $850 million in conservation programs for our state the most aggressive and ambitious conservation package ever passed by any state. More than $90 million of those funds will go directly to consumers in the form of cash rebates that encourage the purchase of energy-efficient appliances. A direct incentive is one of the best ways to attract shoppers to the most energy efficient, sensible choices in appliances.

    As energy conscious consumers explore their options, we must also ensure that we aren't saving one ship while allowing another to sink. One of the unintended consequences of the air conditioning rebate program is that most of today's air conditioners including the most energy-efficient models use a refrigerant that contains a large amount of ozone-depleting chemicals. Our situation today is compounded by the fact that increased efficiency also increases the amount of this coolant required for operation. While this chemical will be phased out in 2010 in California, millions of pounds of this environmentally destructive refrigerant will be sold between now and then.

    A simple and cost-effective solution is to offer an extra cash incentive to those who purchase appliances that utilize more ozone-friendly coolants. These appliances are widely available and equally energy efficient. By purchasing this next generation of appliances, we can prevent the release of thousands of pounds of environmentally damaging chemicals into the atmosphere, further harming the crucial protective layer that guards us all against harmful ultraviolet rays.

Following the money

    It is also important to find methods by which taxpayers can obtain an accurate report of the effectiveness of these state-funded programs. We should track the dollars we've spent, as well as the megawatts we've conserved. Accurate accounting of conservation spending will allow us to maximize our energy savings now and in years to come.

    Californians continue to face a challenging energy situation, but we can all play a role in helping reduce demand. Our energy crisis will come to an end, but the conservation habits and state programs we've developed to ease our current situation will continue and help us become more efficient energy consumers in the future. This is the bright spot in the bleakness of our energy crisis the opportunity we have as Californians to lead the nation, and the world, to permanently reduce energy demand. But we must continue to ensure that our response to this crisis is one that is as environmentally sound as possible.

    California State Assemblymember Christine Kehoe represents the 76th District and can be reached by calling (619) 294-7600 or by email at Assemblymember.Kehoeassembly.ca.gov.