This testimony was given during EPA public hearings in Atlanta on July 29, 2014. Good morning. My name is Dennis Creech. I’m the Executive Director of Southface Energy Institute, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that has provided education, research and technical assistance on clean energy development across the Southeast for over 35 years.
My perspective on the proposed standard is simple: Georgia can meet this standard and, in doing so, further stimulate the growth of our clean energy economy. While we, as a state, have made significant progress in promoting energy efficiency and developing new renewable energy, we can do much, much more.
I come today to share a practitioner’s perspective. For more than three decades, Southface has been on the ground – training builders, working with energy code officials, assisting local governments and utilities and supporting clean energy companies.
I’d like to give a couple of examples of our market-based approach to advancing clean energy that illustrate that clean energy works in Georgia and that we have a strong clean energy industry that can scale quickly to meet the proposed EPA standard. Fifteen years ago, Southface and the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association established EarthCraft, the first green building certification program designed for the Southeast. To date, builders have certified more than 30,000 EarthCraft homes—homes that cut energy and water costs and put money in the pockets of consumers.
Two years ago, Southface partnered with the City of Atlanta and the commercial real estate industry to launch the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge. As a result, over 70 million square feet of commercial office space in Atlanta has pledged to reduce energy and water use at least 20% by 2020. By the way, the Omni, the site of today’s hearings, as well as the Sam Nunn federal building, which houses the offices of Region IV EPA have joined the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge.
Our local utilities, too, have expanded their energy efficiency programs. Georgia Power saves more than 300,000 megawatt-hours a year with its current demand side management programs. Likewise, Georgia’s 41 electric membership cooperatives offer a range of energy efficiency programs to their customers.
However, neither private sector nor utility energy efficiency initiatives in Georgia have come close to exhausting the potential for cost-effective savings. Each day, we see enormous potential for cutting energy waste in our economy.
We also see untapped potential for renewable energy production. While we have finally moved beyond the myth that solar energy doesn’t work in Georgia and developed a strong solar market, we can do much more. Southface maintains an online solar energy map that tracks solar installations across the state. We know of more than 920 residential and commercial projects with a collective capacity of 110 megawatts.
Our utilities have also shown leadership in this arena. Georgia Power’s Advanced Solar Initiative will bring online more than 700 additional megawatts of solar energy by the end of 2016. GreenPower EMC, which provides clean energy to the state’s electric membership cooperatives, recently announced a 20-megawatt solar deal.
As with energy efficiency, we have untapped potential and a solar industry in Georgia ready to create jobs and strengthen local economies. In fact, clean energy is already having a positive impact on Georgia’s economy.
In 2013, Southface partnered with government and industry to conduct the Georgia Clean Energy Industry Census. The data shows more than 600 clean energy firms in the state. About two-thirds of these firms provided employment and sales data; these companies employ over 9,700 full-time personnel and generate at least $2.6 billion annually in revenues. This sector is poised to grow more.
In closing, I want to acknowledge that there will be some who will say we can’t cut carbon pollution. They will claim such regulation is burdensome and it will drive up the cost of electricity, destabilize the electricity grid, and cost American jobs. I don’t believe it. I have seen first-hand the potential for energy efficiency and renewable energy to enhance our quality of life and grow our economy. We can achieve the carbon pollution standard in Georgia and it’s the smart thing to do.