Ever wondered just how much energy we consume to power our economy? To keep our buildings working, machines humming, and wheels running? Are we really energy smart as a country?
For many years, electricity use in the United States increased steadily, in lock-step with growth in the economy as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But since 2010, electricity consumption has been essentially flat, even as GDP has risen steadily. The earlier trend and the divergence are shown in the graph below. New figures just released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that electricity use in 2015 was nearly identical to use in 2010, even as the economy grew 11%.
As energy efficiency geeks, we here at ACEEE are deep into the numbers, publishing report after report on the quads and TWh and MMT CO2 savings from efficiency. We know these numbers and units represent major benefits for the nation, but sometimes we find it hard to explain—to policymakers, advocates outside of the energy world, and even our own families—what they mean for individual American families. We’re trying to change that.
The past year included many successes, including quite a few that we can build on in the new year. Among the notable developments in 2015:
Standards the result of negotiations among broad group of stakeholders
Washington, DC—Energy efficiency standards issued today for rooftop air conditioners and heat pumps—which represent the largest energy and pollution savings of any rule ever issued by the Department of Energy—will benefit businesses, manufacturers, and the environment, according to four of the organizations that participated in the negotiations leading to the announcement.
From 1980 to 2014, energy use in the United States increased from 78 quads (quadrillion Btus) to 98 quads, an increase of 26%. (A quadrillion is 10 to the 15th power.) But over the same period, our gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 149%. A common approach for looking at these two variables together is to examine energy intensity, defined as energy use per real dollar of GDP.
Utility energy efficiency policies and programs have seen tremendous growth over the past dozen years, and this progress has been widely cited by ACEEE and others. During this time, much attention has rightly been focused on investor-owned utilities, since they account for the majority of electricity sales in the nation.
A recent paper by Charles Withers and Robin Vieira from the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) presents a fascinating story about the impacts of the Florida new home building energy code. The paper was presented at the recent Behavior, Energy and Climate Change conference.
Given President Obama’s focus on the climate and green jobs, it may be a surprise that much of what the Obama administration has done on those issues is implementing a bill that Congress passed with bipartisan support and President George W. Bush signed: the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). And it may be equally surprising that eight years later, parts of that bill still remain on the shelf.