Lowering utility bills while creating jobs—now that's efficient

“Every watt saved by energy efficiency measures helps create living-wage jobs,” says Stephanie Pitts, Brand Service Manager at McKinstry, a company that is leading energy efficiency efforts across the country by providing expertise and services to help its clients maximize their energy potential by offering services from energy consultation to full-scale construction. “Every watt saved builds thriving local economies and shrinks our carbon footprints. There isn’t a tradeoff between efficiency and economics – they’re two sides of the same coin.”

As a clean energy economic leader, McKinstry believes that energy efficiency is a critical component to economic growth. In recognition of its commitment to creating family-sustaining jobs and driving energy efficiency across the country, the company was recently named this year’s The Right Stuff Awards honoree in Business by the BlueGreen Alliance. This national award is given to individuals and businesses that are leading the charge to address our biggest environmental challenges in ways that generate sustained economic growth in our communities.

Headquartered in Seattle, McKinstry provides expertise and resources for reducing energy consumption in buildings while also actively promoting sustainable practices. Its diverse project portfolio ranges from residential homes to university campuses — including a number of LEED Gold-certified projects — all of which incorporate varying degrees of sustainability and energy efficiency.

Business Productivity

McKinstry and similar companies provide businesses with tools to optimize their productivity. By consuming less energy, businesses can produce more goods and services at lower costs and free up capital to spend more productively.

Explaining this process another way, Northwest Energy Efficiency Council (NEEC) Executive Director Stan Price equates energy waste to wasted money, saying that, “Every additional increment of energy efficiency will increase capital and allow a business to improve its productivity.”

The notable conclusion of an August 2015 NEEC report is that by improving the overall productivity of the economy the median wage will increase and unemployment will decrease over time.

It’s the Economy

That report, co-produced by NEEC and ECONorthwest, found that efficiency efforts by companies such as McKinstry have generated an average of over 7,500 gross new jobs per year in Washington State, equivalent to $455.5 million in labor income. Related savings from commercial utility bills have additionally supported more than 1,100 jobs on average per year.

The study also found that, in addition to the direct creation of jobs, continued energy efficiency investments could create positive macroeconomic effects in the long-term. 

Take the utility system, for instance. “By limiting excessive energy waste, energy efficiency improvements allowed utility systems to optimize their performance and curtail the need to construct additional power plants, ultimately saving us valuable tax-dollars,” Price explains. If investments continue to be made to energy efficiency, he believes that its success will reach much further than the utility sector and potentially optimize the performance of the economy in general.

Price further points out that as energy efficiency technology becomes more advanced there may be higher demand for family-wage jobs in multiple industries. These jobs could range from high-paying, white-collar managers for maintaining energy systems to information technology specialists and specialized labor for installations.

Carbon Reduction

The most obvious impact of McKinstry’s high level of energy due-diligence is noticeably lower utility bills for its clients, however a lesser-known benefit of this work is the tremendous impact it has on reducing carbon emissions and encouraging sustainability.

Recently, McKinstry conducted an on-site analysis of several Seattle University (SU) campus buildings to evaluate carbon mitigation strategies for the university’s Climate Action Plan. This analysis provided engineering expertise that contributed to a 20% reduction in the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the university’s operations, as compared to 2009 levels, and set the university on course to increase this reduction to 51% campus-wide by 2035.

Another McKinstry project involved the implementation of many advanced energy efficiency mechanisms at the Gates Foundation’s headquarters in Seattle. The 500,000 square foot campus now includes rainwater storage, under-floor cooling, and rooftop air-cooled chillers with a thermal energy storage tank.

Where We Go From Here

It’s a simple concept—improve the energy efficiency of buildings and both the economy and the environment will benefit. However, this is easier said than done. In order for energy efficiency to reach it’s full potential for reducing carbon emissions and improving economic productivity, many more businesses, local governments, utilities, institutions, and individuals must recognize the sustainability precedent being set by companies like McKinstry and follow suit. By scaling up, energy efficiency will stand beside renewable energy, low carbon fuels, public transportation, and other environmental conservation as effective and economical responses to our climate crisis.



Author Bio

Caleb Smith

former Washington Policy Associate, Climate Solutions

A recent graduate from the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies, Caleb was an intern with Climate Solutions’ Strategic Innovation Team in summer 2015, then served as our Washington Policy Associate. While his academic background is in international development, his passion is clean energy technologies.

Outside of Climate Solutions, Caleb is an active board member with New Dawn Guatemala, a Seattle-based nonprofit that works to foster ecological sustainability, economic vitality, and educational advancement in rural Guatemalan communities.

While at the University of Washington, Caleb participated in a task force that published a report outlining steps to end extreme poverty by 2030. His section of the report evaluated how development practices could be transformed to improve various environmental and economic situations in South Asia.

During his junior year, Caleb spent a semester abroad in Geneva, Switzerland, where he studied multilateral diplomacy and worked with the Global Institute for Water, Environment, and Health. While there, he researched Swiss renewable energy systems and Social Entrepreneurship. 

Caleb is an avid traveler, hiker, chef, and handyman. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Jenny.

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