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Energy independence: what does it really mean?

by Jim Merriam, Director of Efficiency Vermont

The idea of “energy independence” has been drawing a lot of attention over the last several years. This makes sense. In the highly-charged political climate, it’s an easy concept to support at a high level – but once we start drilling down (no pun intended) to the details of what American energy independence could actually look like in practice, it becomes much more challenging.

So, in honor of the upcoming Independence Day holiday, I’d like to explore an idea that goes beyond all the political noise around this issue – and gets to the heart of what we are really trying to achieve when we talk about energy independence.

Usually the controversy begins when we start talking about where our energy needs to come from. But that ignores some key questions: How can we get as much benefit as possible from the energy we are using? How much do we need in the first place?

Energy productivity – what a good investment looks like

In other words, rather than focusing on developing new energy sources, let’s make sure we are using energy as productively as possible. Obviously, I am a big proponent of energy efficiency – and I think it has a tremendous role to play in helping us tackle the major challenges facing our planet. But what really gets me excited is that energy efficiency – or energy productivity – doesn’t typically prompt debate or controversy. It can stand on its own terms as a sound investment that makes good common sense for homeowners, businesses, and our economy as a whole.

What does energy independence mean to you?

Those are the facts worth keeping in mind when we talk about energy independence – and it’s why I am always so happy to share the great results that energy efficiency has produced for Vermonters. But I’d also love to hear your perspective: What does energy independence mean to you? Do you think that energy productivity should get more attention in our policy discussions around the issue? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Independence Day!


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