Obama sets new energy efficiency goal

“Today, we are taking another step to strengthen American manufacturing by boosting energy efficiency for businesses across the nation,” Obama said Thursday in a statement. “This action will cut costs, increase efficiency, and help our businesses create strong, middle class jobs. We’ll continue to do everything we can to put more people back to work and build an economy that lasts.”

The directive aims to boost combined heat and power capacity to 40 gigawatts by 2020, an increase of 50 percent compared with today. The order said agencies will craft best practices and work with states to encourage combined heat and power implementation, adding the technologies will help keep industrial facilities compliant with emissions regulations.

Combined heat and power technology produces heat and power simultaneously on-site from one fuel source, thereby making energy generation less wasteful. By burning less fuel, combined heat and power technology reduces greenhouse gas emissions and lowers energy costs. And by having the fuel source on-site, manufacturing facilities are shielded from electricity outages.

Energy efficiency advocates have been stymied on Capitol Hill. Republicans have held off passing energy efficiency bills because they want to take a look at federal tax reform, and many energy efficiency initiatives are funded through tax incentives.

But President of the Alliance to Save Energy Kateri Callahan said Wednesday during a Politico-hosted panel at the Republican National Convention that Obama has taken charge on energy efficiency.

Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Clean Energy Program, praised the administration’s order on Thursday. She called it a “common-sense strategy” for adding jobs, lowering energy costs and enhancing electricity reliability.

Cuttino cited studies by the Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory that said doubling the nation’s industrial efficiency could create 1 million skilled jobs and bring in $234 billion of investment. Deploying more combined heat and power technology is an important step in achieving that mark, she said.

“Industrial energy efficiency is a pragmatic policy with broad support from members of both political parties,” Cuttino said in a statement. “Harnessing energy efficiency technologies benefits manufacturers, workers, and the environment alike.”