In his State of the Union address, President Obama rightly pointed to a thriving domestic auto industry as a bright spot in the U.S. economy. It’s a good time to recall that the government’s 2008-2009 intervention on behalf of GM and Chrysler played a big role in that outcome, as did energy efficiency.
2014 was a good year for energy efficiency. The outlook for 2015 is uncertain, but we’re guardedly optimistic.
The New Year is usually a good time to take stock of the year just ended, and to look forward to the year ahead. Regarding energy efficiency, 2014 was generally a good year. Energy-saving technologies and practices continued to advance. For example, in 2014 LED lighting became a mainstream source of light. The Design Lights Consortium now lists more than 70,000 LED lighting products.
Over the weekend the 113th Congress largely wrapped up its work. It looks like this Congress will pass just over 200 bills, the lowest number since World War II. However, before leaving home for the holidays, Congress took action on several bills that will affect energy efficiency:
The Internet of Everything could be huge boost for U.S. productivity, but we’ll need more data and investment to unlock it
History teaches us that technological advances often lead to new opportunities to reach greater heights. A precipitous decline in the cost of computing power and data storage, and dramatic improvements in programming science, have resulted in the potential for every device to become a connected, “smart” device. Such devices can collect and process enormous amounts of data, making possible many kinds of analysis and higher levels of performance that were unachievable just a decade ago.
Let’s have a conversation about water and energy. We know that the two resources are connected: We need water to produce electricity, mostly for thermal power plants (though we are going to put that aside today). We need energy to pump water out of the ground, treat it so it is potable, and then re-treat it after we use it to shower or wash clothes. We also need energy to heat water in our homes, businesses, and industrial facilities.
The E2e project released a working paper recently that evaluates the State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program (SEEARP), funded in 2009 by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In the paper, authors Sebastien Houde and Joseph Aldy find that the SEEARP program provided little economic stimulation or energy savings. These results are not surprising, given problems with the design of the program (points that ACEEE made when states were crafting their versions of the program).
Every few years, a new paper comes out about the rebound effect and the issue receives some short-term attention. (When a consumer or business buys an efficient car or air conditioner, they may use their energy-efficient equipment a little more often or may spend some of their energy bill savings on things that use energy—these are examples of rebound effects.) ACEEE wrote a paper on the rebound effect in 2012, concluding that both direct and indirect rebound effects exist, but they tend to be modest.
Proposed Standards Would Save Businesses Billions
Washington, D.C.—The Department of Energy (DOE) proposed new efficiency standards today that would slash commercial rooftop air conditioner energy use by about 30%. The proposed standards would achieve the largest national energy savings of any standard ever issued by the U.S. Department of Energy.
One of the great inventions of our time – the modern refrigerator – will get an efficiency makeover when new national efficiency standards go into effect on September 15, reducing energy use of most refrigerators and freezers by about 20-25%. The new standards take effect 100 years after the first modern refrigerators were mass-produced for general use. Before that time, consumers used iceboxes (literally boxes with ice) to keep their food cold, but food safety was an issue.
Working government is not an oxymoron: How savings from federal agency actions on energy efficiency could save us $2.6 trillion
“Washington, D.C.” has become a synonym for “dysfunction” in the last few years, prompting many who care about energy efficiency policy to turn their attention to states. But that view is due to a focus on Congress and on President Obama’s interactions with Congress, where the epithet is mostly deserved. If you look beyond the white marble dome to the federal agencies, there is lots of action on energy efficiency.