Saving Energy Can Also Improve Air Quality

This blog has covered extensively the many financial benefits of saving energy. According to a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and Physicians for Social Responsibility concludes that saving energy can reduce the number of asthma attacks and other adverse health effects of air pollution from power plants. See This report concludes that reducing annual electricity use by 15% nationwide would prolong more than 6 lives every day, prevent nearly 30,000 asthma episodes each year, and save Americans up to $20 billion annually in avoided health care costs.

The cause and effect is simple. When less energy is needed, power plant emissions decrease, reducing byproducts of combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas into the atmosphere, some of which are tied to asthma, lung cancer, and other maladies. The report estimates that this reduction in pollution and harmful health effects would be enough to pay the annual health insurance premiums for nearly 3.6 million families.

The report estimates total potential avoided adverse health effects, such as heart attacks, respiratory illnesses, premature deaths, and emergency room visits to treat asthma, that could be achieved with a 15% reduction in electricity use across the country. Using USEPA modeling tools to identify the quantity of pollutants which would be avoided, the report ranks states and the 50 largest cities by their potential health benefits. According to the analysis, New York City would see the greatest benefits (more than $1 billion/year in avoided health costs), followed by Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. The dollar value of avoided health cost would average more than $70/person in the highest impacted cities, with Pittsburgh seeing the greatest per capita benefits: over $200/person on average. West Virginia would see the greatest benefits per person for a state: $184 on average.

Therefore, this evaluation demonstrates that a viable strategy to improve public health is to encourage improves energy efficiency. A further benefit is that the vast majority of energy efficiency measures results in energy savings and, therefore, reduced power plant emissions, over many years, meaning public health would benefit and costs reduced for many years. While the degree of benefit is certainly quite site-specific, any facility that undergoes an energy upgrade, becoming more energy efficient, can state that they likely will have, as an additional benefits, reduced emissions in areas around the power plant it gets power from and improved health of those nearby residents.

CCES has the experience to help you implement a smart energy efficiency program to reduce energy demand, reduce costs, and reduce air emissions from your facility and from the power plant that supplies you with electricity. We can help you economically reduce emissions from other sources to show a positive societal contribution. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at