Residential energy efficiency improvements twice the cost of benefits

in environment on (#HVRJ)
Energy efficiency investments are widely popular because they are believed to deliver a double win: saving consumers money by reducing the amount of energy they use, while cutting climate-forcing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants harmful to human health. But a new study by a team of economists finds residential energy efficiency investments may not deliver on all that they promise. Through a randomized controlled trial of more than 30,000 households in Michigan – where one-quarter of the households were encouraged to make residential energy efficiency investments and received assistance – the economists find that the costs to deploy the efficiency upgrades were about double the energy savings.

While the researchers found that the upgrades did reduce the households’ energy consumption by about 10 to 20 percent each month that only translated into $2,400 in savings over the lifetime of the upgrades – half of what was originally spent to make the upgrades, and less than half of projected energy savings. "In actuality, the energy efficiency investments we evaluated delivered significantly lower savings than the models predict." Further, some say that the broader societal benefits – savings as a result of reductions in pollution from energy production– justify the investments. But the findings did not support this. The cost per ton of CO2 avoided in the sample amounted to $329, significantly larger than the $38 per ton that the federal government estimates as the social cost of carbon.

What about if the cost is free? (Score: 1)

by on 2015-08-19 22:54 (#HWVX)

I remember someone coming by my house and doing energy savings fixes (seal holes, add attic insulation, etc.) to my house for free. There was some government program (I don't remember if it was state or federal, but I'm fairly sure federal) that paid the contractor directly for each house finished.

My limited economic knowledge says if the government says "we'll pay up to X of the cost," then that's the exact number contractors will charge. The free-ness of the project is felt by the same person who reaps the benefits (lower monthly bills), and so I'm not sure I'm against this at all. While it is, as far as the article is concerned, wasteful, it's only wasting money and the energy needed to do the upgrade, which I'm sure is offset by the energy saved. If it only costs the state and federal governments money (by which I mean, if it only costs everyone a small amount of money) to help against climate change, then I'm all for it. If there is graft or gouging going on (which if there's a government contract, there almost definitely is), then I'm also for fixing that. These two choices are not mutually exclusive.
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