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Southeastern states invested $20 million and got a huge $78 million return. Here's how they did it.

If you could invest $1 to get $3.87 back, would you?

Back in 2010, the Southeastern US made such an investment in energy efficiency and now has reason to be quite happy about it.

The Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance recently found that for every $1 million invested in energy efficiency programs since 2010, an impressive $3.87 million in economic output and 17.28 new jobs were generated. The finding is outlined in SEEA's new report, "Energy Pro3: The Economic Impact of Energy Efficiency Investments in the Southeast," which evaluated the performance of a DOE-supported energy efficiency consortium from 2010 to 2013. 

Sixteen southeastern cities in eight states -- including Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville, and Opower's hometown of Arlington, Virginia -- collectively saw a $78.3 million (387%) return on a $20.2 million energy efficiency investment in the region. Here's a state-by-state breakdown of the economic output generated by the program's investments:

 

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The table shows a significant return enjoyed by all of the participating states, with Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia leading the way. The report notes that the variation in output was due to a number of factors ranging from program marketing to local utility partnerships. On the job creation front, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama had the highest gains in employment, with each of them creating more than 18 jobs per million dollars of efficiency program investment. As a whole, the region added an average of 17 jobs per million dollars of investment:

 

 

With these encouraging economic and employment numbers, the takeaway is clear: the South has tremendous energy savings potential and is beginning to realize it. In fact, our own research shows that if the same eight-state region were to fully adopt behavioral energy efficiency programs -- which include giving people feedback on their usage, targeted incentives, and easy-to-understand savings advice -- the residential sector alone could save a whopping $525 million and 2.7 million tons of CO2 annually. By no means are efficiency investments and savings potential limited to the South. Just this week, the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board (EEB) announced that residents, businesses, and municipalities in the Constitution State saved approximately 285.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2013 -- the equivalent to $53.4 million in energy savings and over 184,900 tons of carbon dioxide abated.  North, south, east, and west, investments in energy efficiency are paying huge dividends.

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