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Bill would put us on a path to true  energy efficiency

Often hidden in all the talk about our green energy future is the reality that we’re already well on our way. The question is, “Are we going fast enough?”

We may not see many wind towers and solar farms lining our landscapes, and we’re not filling up our gas tanks with biofuel derived from non-food sources. But we are using a whole lot less energy than we used to, and we’re doing so with incremental lifestyle changes and an increased consciousness that transcends politics. According to the National Academy of Sciences, we’re on a path to decrease energy use in American homes, businesses, manufacturing facilities and on our roadways by 30 percent between 2010 and 2020. Much of this change will come without government intervention. It’ll happen because businesses and homeowners understand that making smarter choices today will save them a whole lot of money down the road. But the same report also found that we could achieve an extra 17 to 20 percent in energy savings by the end of the decade if we put the right policies in place.

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, are pushing ahead with the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitive Act, which promotes energy efficiency in homes, manufacturing facilities and federal buildings through a series of guidelines and investments. For private homes and commercial buildings, it’s a mix of codes for new structures and loan programs to make energy retrofits on older buildings. This latter part is especially relevant in this area where restoring 18th- and 19th-century buildings with 21st-century technology will help make these historic homes treasures worth preserving rather than costly burdens.

It will also help manufacturers on two fronts. It will establish a revolving loan program to finance energy upgrades and it will spur new technologies through research and development. And the bill also targets new standards for the federal government, the country’s largest single energy user.

Earlier this week, Shaheen went on a tour of the Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery and the White Mountain National Forest Headquarters to promote the bill. But she could just as easily have come to the Monadnock region, where we have our share of success stories.

She could have visited both the River Center in Peterborough and the Grapevine in Antrim, two cornerstone nonprofits that underwent significant efficiency upgrades led by the Monadnock Energy Resources Initiative, a grassroots organization that helps promote efficiency through workshops and local projects. The multiple days worth of work to the interior and the exterior of the those buildings helps those two organizations save money. In turn, it also helps them put some of those savings back into the community.

Shaheen also could have visited Monadnock Paper Mills, a throwback manufacturer along the Contoocook River in Bennington, which was recently honored by the Environmental Protection Agency for efficiency upgrades that have saved the company more than a million kilowatt hours a year of power. The company has clearly realized that energy efficiency gives it some broad credibility, but it also makes for better business.

Or New Hampshire’s senior senator could have taken a trip to Temple, which has stood as a local example of a small town that has made big changes with upgrades to its municipal building, fire department and library. Temple also got 15 percent of its households to participate in an energy challenge a few years back that included Rindge, Jaffrey and Bennington.

The Shaheen-Portman legislation has already gained strong bipartisan support, having passed through the Senate Energy Committee on a 19-3 vote, and a full Senate vote should come in September. The bill is being touted as a job creator and a money saver for consumers, and if it’s passed we’d likely see even more success stories in our region.

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