Data Points Series
As the US unemployment rate nears a 10-year low, some companies report trouble finding skilled workers. The problem is particularly pervasive, as new data show, in the energy efficiency sector.
More than 80% of employers in this sector report at least some difficulty finding qualified job applicants, and more than 40% indicate it’s “very difficult,” according to the Department of Energy’s second annual energy and employment report released this month.
The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized state-specific limits on greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. States can get most, if not all, of the emission savings they need by reducing the amount of electricity they are currently wasting. In the graph below, the light orange bars show that the listed states can achieve more than half of EPA’s 2030 limits with a few modest energy efficiency measures: 1% annual savings target, updated building codes, and 100 MW of new combined heat and power.
In a recent report released by ACEEE and Energy Efficiency for All, Lifting the High Energy Burden in America’s Largest Cities, we measured energy burdens in 48 of the largest cities in the United States. Energy burden means the percentage of household income that goes toward energy costs, and we looked specifically at utility energy bills (transportation energy costs are also a significant household expense, but it was outside the scope of the analysis).
Several recent sets of data show large improvements in lighting energy efficiency in recent years. First, DOE has commissioned two US Lighting Market Characterization studies – one with data on installed lighting in 2001, the other with data on installed lighting in 2012.
Commercial-sector energy use in the US increased by 63% from 1979 to 2012, rising from total source energy use of 10.6 quads in 1979 to a peak of 18.4 quads in 2008 before declining to 17.4 quads in 2012. This growth can largely be attributed to a corresponding increase in commercial building floor area, which grew by 70% over the same period. But that is only part of the story. As the graph below illustrates, as floor area has trended upward over time, energy use per square foot has gone up and down, peaking in the 1999-2003 period but declining since then.
One of the more vexing challenges for those in the energy efficiency program sector is ensuring that savings resulting from the implementation of an efficiency measure persist over time. Fortunately, a solution exists: intelligent efficiency can prevent the degradation of energy savings, and in some instances increase savings over time.
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?
Ask just about anyone involved in the utility energy efficiency industry where the best utility system integrated resource planning (IRP) is conducted, and they’ll say it’s the Pacific Northwest. And ask anyone familiar with that work what name comes to mind in connection with that effort, and it’s Tom Eckman.
Much like the proverbial ‘juice’ by which it’s often referred, electricity can go a long way for those who make a habit of squeezing every last drop of what they have. When everyone adopts this mindset, we all win, freeing up resources to dedicate to other critical needs. That’s the commonsense approach the utility sector has increasingly recognized and embraced over the years, harnessing efficiency to avoid or defer costs such as developing new energy supplies, building transmission infrastructure, and complying with environmental rules.
We tend to talk about energy savings in two ways. There is the total annual impact of savings, made up of layers of savings from programs implemented in the past but still saving energy today, and there are incremental savings, or savings attributed to new programs implemented in a given year. At ACEEE, we track incremental savings within our State Energy Efficiency Scorecard.