We have pumped a lot of “green ink” onto the pages of CEE News in recent years. These articles have touted the money-saving and business-building opportunities that energy-efficient electrical systems offer electrical contractors and their customers. The magazine's editors have been in the first pew along with other Green Power proponents in the electrical industry, singing the “pay-more-now-for-products-that-offer-future-savings” song since energy conservation first became a concern during the 1970s Oil Crisis.

The dynamics have changed since then. From the aisles of Congress to the aisles at your local supermarket, legislators, storeowners and average homeowners are afraid that the U.S. is not producing enough power to supply our growing population. The math is easy. In the past 30 years, the population of the U.S. has grown by more than 50 million people, to more than 272 million residents. By 2015, the population is expected to top 310 million, according to the Population Reference Bureau. I agree with the Bush Administration that the U.S. needs more power plants to satisfy this growing population and its burgeoning use of computers, laser printers, microwaves and other household appliances and business machines. But someone better check the math of whoever it was on Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force who decided that the U.S. must build 1,300 new power plants in the next 20 years.

While construction on such an unprecedented scale would certainly benefit the electrical construction industry, cutting down on our energy usage through the installation of more efficient electrical systems would eliminate a big chunk of the astronomical cost of adding to the power grid to this extent.

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as either building new power plants or saving watts. We must do both. Saving watts is not the total solution to our power problems, but it will help — Big Time. The numbers don't lie. According to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, Rosslyn, Va., the energy used by buildings in the U.S. costs about $70 billion each year, but the installation or retrofit of these facilities with energy-efficient electrical systems could reduce energy costs by 40% and save businesses $28 billion per year. Heck, just retrofitting existing lighting, HVAC, motors and drives can save end users big bucks. A recent study in Energy User News found that installations or retrofits with these products can save a building owner $1 to $1.50 per sq ft of floor space.

There's also good news on the political front. The stage may be set on Capitol Hill for legislation that would increase the sales of energy-efficient electrical products through financial incentives. These proposed laws are: Senate Bill 352, “The Energy Emergency Response Act of 2001”; Senate Bill 359, “Comprehensive and Balanced Energy Policy Act of 2001”; and Section 602 of Senate Bill 388, the “Energy-Efficient Schools Program.”

Be aware that this legislation could create additional business opportunities for your company in the installation of energy-efficient electrical systems — and that you can help this legislation become a reality by contacting your local Congressman and Senator and voicing your support for these bills.