The United States would have paid US$800 billion more for energy in 2014, or about $2,500 per capita, if not for efficiency improvements that have accumulated over the last 35 years, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) reported last week.
And yet, “while much progress has been made, there are large and cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities that collectively can reduce 2050 energy use by 40-60% relative to current forecasts,” the Council states. “In order to realize these energy-saving opportunities we need to harness and transform markets, make efficiency a key strategy for the utility of the future, and expand federal, state, and local policy efforts.”
ACEEE attributes the huge savings to date to a 50% decrease in the energy intensity of the U.S. economy: over a period when GDP grew 149%, energy use only increased 26%. While “energy efficiency was an important contributor to this improvement,” accounting for about 60% of the energy savings, “efficiency gains were also partly due to shifts in the U.S. economy away from some energy-intensive segments,” like heavy manufacturing.
“Efficiency investments and savings also generate jobs, including direct jobs installing efficiency measures, indirect jobs upstream in the supply chain, and jobs induced as energy bill savings are spent elsewhere and multiply throughout the economy,” the report adds. “Energy savings can also help to drive modest overall growth in the U.S. economy.”
ACEEE points to energy savings across the U.S. economy, from a 25% improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency and a 25% reduction in line losses in electricity transmission and distribution, to a 70% efficiency improvement in new clothes washers. But the job isn’t nearly done: The report lists a range of opportunities for the next 35 years, including system-wide “intelligent efficiency,” improvements in electronics and other equipment, net-zero and ultra-low-energy buildings, industrial process improvements, advanced vehicles, and energy-efficient grids. (h/t to Midwest Energy News for first pointing us to this story)