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Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 6


Additional  Economic Vitality Indicators

1 - Income

2 - Unemployment

3 - Productivity

4 - Poverty

5 - Gross State Product (GSP)

Energy Efficiency

Economic output per unit of energy consumed: Increasing

  Things to think about

Even though we have access to better technologies every year, some aspects of our energy efficiency have actually fallen in recent years, such as driving in bigger cars and living in bigger homes.

The recently enacted energy restructuring law seeks to promote energy efficiency programs that are economically and environmentally sound. This law allocates over $100 million annually for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

With deregulation of the electric industry, most New Jersey residents are now able to choose where their electricity comes from and how it is made. Consumers can now choose electricity that is produced from renewable resources rather than by fossil fuel combustion or nuclear energy.

Importance

This indicator measures how many dollars our economy produces for each unit of energy consumed. Energy efficiency is a measure of economic competitiveness. Most of our energy comes from sources outside New Jersey (oil, coal, nuclear, natural gas) and creates large environmental impacts. As our energy efficiency increases, we become less dependent upon our out-of-state sources of energy and better able to reduce the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases that we emit. Getting more out of each unit of energy means paying less when we heat our homes, drive our cars, purchase products, and run our industries. Those savings can become an investment in new businesses, in education, and in new technologies.

Economic

Efficient businesses have a powerful advantage over their inefficient competitors. They pay less when they buy energy and then pay less again when they are spared from expensive cleanup of pollution. Fluctuations in the price of fuel have less effect on efficient companies, and government regulators have less need to focus on them. Energy efficiency is a mark of a well-run company. Lower energy expenses also increase disposable income for individuals.

Environmental

The production of most energy is very harmful to the environment, as evidenced by pollution, strip mining, radioactive waste, and landscapes changed radically by dams. Massive burning of fossil fuels is the major cause of global warming, which may have disastrous environmental effects. Impressive reductions in the use of polluting fossil fuels are available to us from technologies such as compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL) and cars that get high gas mileage. For instance, a CFL is four times as efficient as an incandescent bulb, lasts 10 times longer, and saves about $40 per bulb over its lifetime; yet CFLs are still not widely accepted and used.

Social

Although laws and government regulations play a large part in our energy choices, reducing energy consumption will require small changes and choices in all of our lives that can only come about through social awareness. It means driving less, buying more efficient homes and appliances, and choosing sustainable energy sources.

Knowledge Gaps

We need measures of economic resource efficiency that include more than just energy, but also cover our use of timber, land, water, metals, and other materials. We do not yet have widely released, assessed, or accepted data on the percentage of our energy that comes from renewable, clean, or sustainable sources. As a result of energy deregulation, new data are becoming available through a new reporting requirement that provides consumers with a standard set of information about the environmental characteristics of energy they purchase.

Data Sources: US Energy Information Administration and US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: April 25, 2007

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