Americans Invest Big in Energy Efficiency

Blog | February 18, 2013 - 11:13 am

It turns out that the U.S. embraces energy efficiency in a big way. According to a new report we released today, ACEEE estimates that in 2010 (the latest year for which data is available) $479–670 billion was spent in the U.S. on energy efficiency goods and services such as energy efficiency program expenditures, sales of ENERGY STAR products, investments in building efficiency improvements, repairs and new construction, trends in manufacturing energy use and investments, and sales of efficient vehicles.

The incremental cost of advancement in energy efficiency (e.g., upgrading from an average refrigerator to an ENERGY STAR model) was $72–$101 billion in 2010. These estimates are consistent with a range of past studies, and are significantly greater than our estimate for investments in 2004. Our findings are summarized in a new fact sheet, also released today.

To give some context, the United States spent about $170 billion in 2010 on conventional energy supply, including things like transmission lines, drilling equipment, oil wells, and power plants. The $72–101 billion premium for the higher levels of energy efficiency is roughly one-half of the annual investment in energy supply. Looked at another way, since 1970 this “energy efficiency premium” (including the $72–$101 billion spent in 2010) has delivered about three times the level of new energy services as conventional energy supply ($170 billion), as shown in the graph below:

Investments in Energy Efficiency and Conventional Energy Supply in 2010


Current research suggests that the productivity of our economy may be more directly tied to greater levels of energy efficiency than to energy supply. And there is still so much more efficiency potential yet to be tapped, according to our 2012 study, The Long-Term Energy Efficiency Potential: What the Evidence Suggests. More critically, we must accelerate our annual investments in efficiency if we are to ensure a more robust economy over the long term. To that extent, we’ve outlined a plan in our 2012 study,  to cut energy consumption by the year 2050 almost 60 percent, add nearly two million net jobs in 2050, and save energy consumers as much as $400 billion per year (the equivalent of $2,600 per year per family). Or in other words, it’s a plan to bequeath a healthy economy and a healthy environment for future generations.

Now who could say no to that?