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Administrator Gina McCarthy, Remarks at the Energy Efficiency Forum, As Prepared

Thanks so much, Dave. And thank you for your leadership on sustainability and climate change and Johnson Controls. It’s an honor to be inducted into the Energy Efficiency Hall of Fame and to just be mentioned among so many leaders making a difference. The point I want to make about the people on that list is that they are from all different backgrounds and from all sides of the aisle. So if there’s anything on which we can come together, it’s efficiency.

Last year, the President laid out a Climate Action Plan. And last week, as part of his plan, EPA took a critical step forward. We delivered a proposal to cut the harmful carbon pollution fueling climate change from power plants—our nation’s largest source—by seizing clean energy and energy efficiency opportunities. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but energy efficiency will continue to play a huge role in our path to cut pollution and propel our clean energy revolution.

Recent polls show that Americans overwhelmingly want carbon pollution under control. They realize the importance of billions of dollars in health benefits to their families, and what that means in terms of hundreds of thousands fewer asthma attacks, heart attacks, and more. And to be clear, when our proposal goes into full effect, consumer energy bills will actually shrink by 8 percent. Why? In large part thanks to efficiency. Energy efficiency is the poster child for turning our risks into opportunities. So my answer to the title of this session is that energy efficiency is at a tipping point. And our proposal counts on it.

In our proposal, we laid out tailored, state-specific goals to cut carbon pollution per megawatt-hour of electricity generated. We examined the power sector in each state and looked at local energy mixes and local opportunities for cleaner power and increased efficiency. We took your advice. We led a historic outreach effort, even before we put pen to paper, to hear what works and what doesn’t. And now we’re into our second phase of crucial engagement.

I’ve been on a whirlwind tour lately, talking to anyone who wants to weigh in on our proposal. And there’s one thing I hear loud and clear: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. We agree. That’s why our proposal is all about flexibility. Flexibility that puts states in the driver’s seat so they can choose what’s best for them. That flexibility means long term investment certainty, which means more investment in efficiency, more jobs, and a more sustainable, vibrant economic growth. The point I’ve been clear on is that this is not a scary new direction, it’s just more wind in our sails. Our proposal doesn’t prescribe—it propels progress underway. Including progress on efficiency.

When you look at energy in America, one thing is clear: efficiency is low-cost, high reward. Efficiency is such a clear winner, no one is arguing that it’s not. And we live in world where folks just make up things to argue about, so that’s saying something.

Our proposal looked into what efficiency means from plant to plug. We recognized that for conventional fuels, efficiency at the plant could mean more viable, less polluting power. And efficiency at the plug—demand side strategies, that is—could go a long way to getting us more bang for our buck for the fuel we burn. When we do that, everybody wins.

My guess is that when folks flip a switch or charge their phone, they don’t care about the exact number of kilowatts they get, they just care that their lights and plugs work at affordable prices. So it’s a no brainer—let’s get more efficient, so we need less and can pay less. And all of you guys can build the widgets that get us there.

The good news is that our proposal follows the trails already blazed by cities and states around the country. And many of you deserve credit for that. To date, 47 states have utilities that run demand side efficiency programs, 38 have renewable portfolio standards, and 10 have market-based greenhouse gas programs. The 25 states with Energy Efficiency Resource Standards make up 60 percent of electricity sales in the U.S., cutting pollution and cutting costs.

EPA knows the power of energy efficiency because for years, Americans have been buying Energy Star Appliances and have been saving billions of dollars. More than 300 million ENERGY STAR certified products were purchased across more than 70 product categories in 2013. ENERGY STAR shows that we can build a thriving economy and at the same time protect our health and the environment.

Buildings are one area where Energy Star is really kicking butt. And we know that building energy use is another big driver of carbon pollution. Something cool we’re doing is working to create an Energy Star 1 to 100 score to be released in the fall to rate energy efficiency of multifamily buildings. Utility companies have strategies that include more deployment of Energy Star and offer a wide range of efficiency opportunities beyond appliances.

Something that I’m particularly excited about is the fact that state, cities, and utilities are finding ways to make these efficiency gains, and the savings that come with them, accessible to lower income families. New investment in energy efficiency means new jobs. Both direct jobs and the indirect jobs in supporting industries in which so many of you operate.

At the end of the day, we may not agree on every specific detail of how we get to a world with less pollution and cleaner energy. But what we do agree on is why we do it. We have a moral obligation—as people and, most of all, as parents—to make sure the world we leave our children has a safe and healthy environment and a vibrant and sustainable economy.

Energy efficiency is at a tipping point, and we can build a better future if we continue to put our confidence in it.

Thank you very much.