Today is National Energy Efficiency Day, so you may be seeing signs and advertisements featuring LED bulbs, one of the most visible symbols of energy efficiency. But you may be unfamiliar with how these modest lights are transforming our state’s economy. They’re creating jobs, keeping your electric rates low and spurring business.

A recent project with the McLaren Health Care system exemplifies how energy efficiency in Michigan is working. For the sweeping lighting initiative, workers replaced nearly every exterior and interior light in 11 primary hospitals. The new LED lights are better: they last for decades, provide more visibility, are able to dim at night, and save $1.6 million a year in electricity and operations costs. As a result, they’ll pay for themselves in 3.7 years. Staff at the hospital have reported that they feel safer at night, and the hospital expects to see fewer slips and falls.

What happened at the hospitals is similar to what is happening around the state. Our state has more than 50,000 people working in energy efficiency — about as many jobs as there are people in Battle Creek. These workers aren’t just installing light bulbs. They’re also upgrading buildings, optimizing manufacturing lines, and patching air leaks in all kinds of buildings.

It’s easy to understand how these workers save individual ratepayers money by reducing electricity waste. But that’s only half the story. Workers in energy efficiency actually save all ratepayers money, whether or not those ratepayers participate in efficiency programs.

That’s because overall demand for electricity goes down when many projects are completed at homes and businesses around the state to reduce energy waste. In the short run, this reduction in waste means utility companies don’t need to buy as much fuel or electricity from out of state. In the long run, it means utility companies don’t need to build as many new power plants. Power plants can cost billions of dollars to build. Since regulated utility companies pass their costs onto ratepayers, those power plants can cause your electricity rates to go way up. This is why energy efficiency saves everyone money.

The numbers speak for themselves. Energy efficiency in Michigan is working and has returned $4.35 in benefits for every $1 invested. A recent scorecard by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy also found that Michigan ranks 11th in the country in terms of energy efficiency.

However, we still have a lot of room for improvement. This same scorecard gave Michigan 27 points out of 50 in its ranking. Next year, when you see the LED light bulbs in the news, let’s be celebrating that our state has become the most efficient in the country. Efficiency has a tremendous track record of success, and we have so much opportunity to have even more. It’s time to double down on what works.

Chris Eyer

regional sales manager, Cree Inc.

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