Many Kansas residents and officials currently are pondering the best way to meet the state's future energy demands. Should we increase our use of biofuels and wind power or invest in new coal-fired plants to generate electricity?
At least a partial answer to that question may be "none of the above."
Although the state will have to depend on some combination of traditional and innovative sources to provide the energy needed to serve homes and businesses, energy conservation measures that could reduce that need are an important piece of the puzzle. To the extent that we can reduce the energy we use, we can reduce our dependence and investment in energy production and some of the negative environmental impacts that go with it.
Conservation has drawn the attention of state officials, including the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Kansas Energy Council. The energy council will meet this week to discuss possible legislative initiatives such as expanding weatherization assistance to low-income households, funding energy conservation education in schools, and raising energy efficiency standards for commercial and industrial buildings. The KCC appears close to ruling that it has the right to order utility companies in the state to establish energy efficiency programs.
The point here is not to choke off business development or force state residents to swelter through a hot Kansas summer without air conditioning, but to entice residents and business to support energy conservation through everyday actions and when investing in equipment and buildings.
Amid all the concern about global warming and greenhouse gases, new focus has been put not only on harmful emissions from power plants but how we can attack the problem through everyday decisions. It may seem impossible for one person or one family to affect this problem, but a widespread conservation effort can have an impact, as illustrated by information from Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
For instance, if every American home replaced just one standard light bulb with a fluorescent bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars. Properly using a programmable thermostat not only reduces energy use, but can save a typical family $150 a year.
Meeting the state's energy needs demands a two-pronged approach. We not only need to produce energy, we also need to use that energy in the most economic and efficient way possible.