…crude oil $125 per barrel, climate change, energy independence, insufficient electricity infrastructure, volatile prices, and the list goes on…
Energy efficiency is probably the most successful but least appreciated strategy for dealing with the significant energy challenges we face in blazing our country’s path to prosperity during the 21st century.
For example, U.S. energy consumption at the end of 2008 is expected to total half of the energy consumed in 1970 thanks to investments in energy efficiency according to a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. And, there remains a huge amount of opportunity for additional, profitable investments (a recent McKinsey study estimated the existing energy efficiency market is about $170 billion per year to the tune of a 17% annual rate of return). Here is a summary of the ACEEE report:
Washington, D.C. – It’s the U.S. energy boom that no one knows about. Energy efficiency may be the farthest-reaching, least-polluting, and fastest-growing energy success story of the last 50 years. But it also is the most invisible, the least understood, and in serious danger of missing out on needed future investments. The ACEEE report, The Size of the U.S. Energy Efficiency Market: Generating a More Complete Picture, concludes that “…our nation is not aware of the role that energy efficiency has played in satisfying our growing energy-service demands…the contributions of efficiency often go unrecognized. The contributions of energy efficiency often remain invisible…” The report also notes that although efficiency is a proven resource, it remains underdeveloped. “In short, the evidence suggests that efficiency can make an even larger contribution towards stabilizing energy prices and reducing greenhouse gas emissions – should we choose to fully develop it.”
Key report findings include:
- The U.S. stands to gain enormously from additional investments in energy efficiency, and could reasonably reduce consumption by as much as 30 percent during the next two decades.
- Future efforts would bear additional fruit through the creation of green collar jobs. Annual investments in energy efficiency technologies currently support 1.6 million U.S. jobs. The $300 billion invested in energy efficiency in 2004 was three times the amount invested in traditional energy infrastructure.
- Investments in energy efficiency technologies are estimated to have generated approximately 1.7 quads of energy savings in 2004 alone – roughly the equivalent of the energy required to operate 40 mid-sized coal-fired or nuclear power plants.
- Since 1970, energy efficiency has met about three-fourths of the demand for new energy-related services while conventional energy supply has covered only one-fourth of this demand.
- Nearly 60 percent of energy efficiency investments made in 2004 were from the buildings sector, with nearly half coming from appliances and electronics.
Now the key is to pick up all this free money lying on the ground. There are a ton of energy efficiency resources on the internet for homeowners – here are just a few:
- ACEEE Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings
- Department of Energy Energy Savings Calculators, or the Home Energy Saver tool
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) – Just click your state to see all the state, local, and utility incentives offered. Basically, your electric or gas company will cut you a check for all kinds of things from caulking windows to buying more efficient appliances. Here is the Massachusetts Homeowner Incentives page.