Promoting Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Clean Air, Curbing Climate Change and Cost Savings

Western Resource Advocates works to increase the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency and other low-carbon energy technologies.

Renewable Energy

Gwen Farnsworth“Renewable energy is the path to reliable, affordable, clean power. We can power our homes and our cars with clean power – but to do so requires commitment and that strategic policies be implemented in the next five years.”

– Gwen Farnsworth, Senior Energy Policy Advisor

Producing Electricity from Coal, Oil, and Gas Pollutes our Climate, Air and Water

Climate change, caused by carbon pollution from the production and burning of fossil fuels, will take a particularly hard toll on the mountain and desert West. The consequences of climate change are already visible: increased risk and duration of drought and wildfires, reduced snowpack, and extinction of vulnerable wildlife species.

Conventional energy sources such as coal and natural gas are huge contributors to climate change. Electricity production accounts for more than one-third of U.S. global warming emissions, with the majority generated by coal-fired power plants.

Non-renewable electricity generation uses large amounts of scarce water, and pollutes both the air and water. Reliance on conventional energy sources exposes consumers to price fluctuations and harms our health and environment.

Renewable Energy Benefits our Climate, Health and Economy

Renewable energy provides substantial benefits for our climate, our health, and our economy. Most renewable energy resources emit no carbon pollution. In the Mountain West, we enjoy abundant renewable resources that can be used to generate electricity, like wind, solar, and geothermal. While geothermal energy systems emit some air pollutants, total air emissions are generally much lower than those of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants.

Further, wind and solar energy require essentially no water to operate and thus do not pollute water resources or strain water supplies by competing with agriculture, residential use, or fish and wildlife. In contrast, fossil fuels can have a significant impact on water resources. For example, both coal mining and natural gas drilling can pollute sources of drinking water. See our energy and water nexus page for more information.

Conventional hydropower is important in the region, especially in Arizona, but the prospects for additional hydropower generation capacity are very limited due to environmental impacts, absence of potential sites, and risk of persistent drought.

Western Resource Advocates Is a Leader in Advancing Renewable Energy

Western Resource Advocates leads efforts to develop and implement policies and market mechanisms in the West to increase the use of renewable energy while reducing carbon pollution from the power sector. We advocate before state public utility regulatory commissions and state legislatures. Our efforts also include direct outreach to utilities, regulators, community organizations, and other industry stakeholders.

Over the last 15ears, Western Resource Advocates has made considerable progress promoting clean energy. In 1995, there was no wind generation in the Interior West, and solar energy sources were rare. Today there are thousands of megawatts of wind generation providing electricity to consumers in the Interior West, as well as significant amounts of solar and geothermal power generation. In 1995, utilities in the region spent less than $2 million per year on energy efficiency; today that figure is well over $200 million per year.

While these gains are significant, a more dramatic utilization of clean energy technologies will be needed if we are to address the problem of climate change. Western Resource Advocates is defining a renewable energy vision by identifying and extending best practices, encouraging technological innovation, analyzing costs of continued operation of existing coal-fired power plants, and promoting more effective utilization of energy efficiency and distributed renewable generation.

Energy Efficiency

John Nielsen“Energy efficiency not only saves energy and cleans our air – it also saves consumers money.Increasing energy efficiency should be a priority for every utility, government, business andindividual.” – John Nielsen, Clean Energy Program Director

Energy Efficiency also Needed to Combat Climate Change, Clean the Air and Save Money

Every year, energy is wasted through transmission, heat loss, and inefficient technology —costing families and businesses money and leading to increased carbon pollution and climate change. Energy efficiency is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to combat climate change, clean the air, and save consumers and businesses money.

There are Many Options to Achieve Greater Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency can be achieved by:

  • Using energy-efficient devices for lighting, space cooling and heating, refrigeration, and so forth;
  • Designing our buildings and landscapes better (such as shade trees);
  • Changing our behavior (such as turning off the lights when we leave a room); and
  • Improving system operations to optimize many functions within a house, business, city, or other location and reduce energy usage as a result. These systems may employ real-time feedback or automated controls, for example.

Adopting local, state or federal policies and programs can greatly increase energy efficiency. Policy and program options include:

  • Building codes or other standards that establish baseline energy efficiency for products that may be sold or used within a jurisdiction. For example, requiring LED lights or minimum efficiency standards for new homes.
  • Inclusion of energy efficiency standards in municipal climate change or sustainability plans. Many local governments have prepared climate change or sustainability plans, some of which include action items that reduce energy consumption through efficiency measures.
  • Programs to promote energy efficiency. Some community-based organizations, utilities, and/or governments implement programs to educate consumers about energy efficiency and, in many cases, install or incentivize energy efficiency measures for residential or business consumers.
  • Businesses, governments or organizations establishing energy efficiency policies.Businesses, governments, or other organizations may establish their own internal energy efficiency objectives.

Western Resource Advocates Advances Energy Efficiency Policies, Programs and Market Mechanisms

Western Resource Advocates works to develop and implement policies, programs, and market mechanisms in the West to increase the use of energy efficiency, thereby reducing carbon pollution from the power sector. We advocate before state public utility regulatory commissions and state legislatures. Our efforts also include direct outreach to utilities, community organizations, and other industry stakeholders.

Our goal is to increase the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency and other low-carbon energy technologies so that by 2020, regional greenhouse gas emissions are 20% below 2005 levels and on a path to achieve an 80% reduction
by 2050.

How We’re Working on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

PROJECT STAFF

Gwen Farnsworth

Gwen Farnsworth

Senior Energy Policy Advisor

Robert Johnston

Robert Johnston

Senior Staff Attorney

Nancy Kelly

Nancy Kelly

Senior Policy Advisor

Steve Michel

Steve Michel

Chief Counsel for the Energy Program

John Nielsen

John Nielsen

Clean Energy Program Director

Erin Overtuf

Erin Overturf

Senior Staff Attorney