"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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PG&E Celebrates 20 Years of Energy-Efficient Energy Star Products

By David Kligman

SAN FRANCISCO — Anyone shopping for a new refrigerator, TV or air conditioning system only needs to look for the blue Energy Star symbol to know it’s a product that maximizes energy efficiency.

Energy Star is an iconic and recognized symbol from a program created in 1992 by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. While the energy savings in those first few years were miniscule, the benefits have dramatically increased over the past 10 years.

Last year, with the help of Energy Star, consumers and businesses reduced their utility bills by $24 billion and prevented 242 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

The program’s success has depended on private sector partnerships with businesses and utilities like PG&E. On Monday (April 29), PG&E hosted a celebration of Energy Star’s 20th anniversary at its headquarters. Colorado Sen. Mark Udall attended and the EPA’s Jared Blumenfeld presented PG&E’s Tony Earley with Energy Star’s Partner of the Year for Sustained Excellence award.

Learn more about the California model for energy efficiency

Achieving aggressive goals for energy efficiency

PG&E joins a host of other companies and organizations to win the award this year, including retailers (Lowe’s), fellow utilities (Austin Energy) and nonprofits (Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville).

PG&E has won more Energy Star awards over the years than any other U.S. company. (Photo by David Kligman.)

PG&E has won more Energy Star awards over the years than any other U.S. company. (Photo by David Kligman.)

Winners have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by setting and achieving aggressive goals, and employing innovative energy efficiency approaches. Award winners are selected from the nearly 20,000 organizations that participate in the Energy Star program.

Click here to stay informed about the California model for energy efficiency

“Energy efficiency is really the first fuel that we ought to turn to,” said Earley, PG&E’s CEO, chairman and president. “Investing in and encouraging customers to be smart about their energy use is the most cost effective way to address energy demand and offset the need to build new generation capacity. And this company has been doing it for almost 30 years.

“What’s amazed me in my 18 months here is how deeply the company is focused on energy efficiency,” he added. “It’s integrated and ingrained in our culture.”

Successful in California

PG&E helps customers save energy and money by offering rebates and incentives on energy-efficient products, helping building operators benchmark their energy use and collaborating with manufacturers and retailers to sell more efficient products.

pge2Through its partnership with Energy Star in 2012 alone, PG&E helped customers save more than $2 billion in average lifecycle energy bills and avoid the emission of nearly 840,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Energy Star has been a particular success in California where PG&E and other utilities and agencies have long championed energy efficiency by implementing a diverse array of programs, services and campaigns aimed at helping customers save energy and money. In California, per capita electricity use has remained relatively flat over the past three decades while nationwide electricity use has increased by almost 50 percent.

Last year, Americans bought 300 million Energy Star products, many of them dishwashers, washing machines and other household appliances. But products with the Energy Star seal also include everything from roofing materials to light bulbs to solar water heaters.

The Energy Star symbol also extends to new homes — more than 100,000 earned the certification last year — that are 15 percent more energy efficient than other typical new homes. For businesses, Energy Star provides the largest U.S. building energy benchmarking data analysis. Buildings that used the tool showed an average 7 percent energy savings and 6 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

With efficiency, ‘PG&E delivers’

Blumenfeld, the EPA’s region 9 administrator appointed by President Obama, praised PG&E’s long involvement with the Energy Star program.

“It’s really no accident,” he said. “You don’t win an award like this by accident. A lot of people talk a great game when it comes to energy efficiency. PG&E delivers. And delivering is what it’s about. You’re saving money and you’re saving the planet. That’s what PG&E is all about.”

Udall, the Democratic senator who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the partnership between PG&E and Energy Star demonstrates the power of energy savings by combining a utility’s expertise with government backing.

He ended the event by quoting New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

“He points out over and over again that green is the new red, white and blue,” said Udall. “This is the most patriotic thing that we can do.”

Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.