The March 20 editorial “SCE&G has other energy options” correctly states that improved energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective pathways to reducing energy consumption, eliminating wasteful and unnecessary investments in centralized generating capacity and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Energy efficiency is also a social justice issue.
Thousands of low-income residents in the Charleston region spend more money on electricity than on mortgages, rent, food or anything else. They are living in leaky homes with no insulation and inefficient electric heaters and air conditioners.
Many are elderly homeowners who cannot afford to weatherize their homes or replace old equipment. Others are renters living in homes owned by investors who have no incentive to improve energy efficiency.
Low-income people are the most hard-hit victims of the 18 percent added charges on our electric bills for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project.
Energy efficiency also provides an opportunity to meet two sets of needs at the same time. The Sustainability Institute in North Charleston hires and trains at-risk youth to do home energy audits and in the trades required for weatherizing homes. The institute also has provided the same training opportunities to veterans.
In over 40 homes per year, graduates of the program perform energy audits, seal openings, install insulation and replace lighting with energy-efficient LEDs, all resulting in lower energy bills and greater economic security for low-income and elderly residents. At the same time the program helps people rebuild their lives by training them in building trades and the “soft” skills needed to succeed in work and life. Learn more at www.sustainabilityinstitutesc.org. With the right investment, programs like this could be scaled up to reach many more people.
An expanded statewide program of this type would have greater return on investment than a new electrical generating plant, especially considering the benefits to low-income residents and people in need of training and employment. It also would reduce South Carolina’s share of carbon dioxide emissions, which are contributing to sea level rise and more extreme weather patterns.