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.
Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970, and that got us thinking about how households used energy back then. What did they use it for? Do we follow the same conventional wisdom for saving energy in our homes today, even though there are some obvious differences in the types of devices we use now? We were curious to dig in and see how energy use has changed over the past 35+ years, and how that change shapes our efforts to conserve.
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?
Electric energy efficiency programs have grown substantially in the last ten years. As they’ve grown, leaders have emerged. In our new report, Big Savers: Experiences and Recent History of Program Administrators Achieving High Levels of Energy Savings, we showcase 14 of these leaders. The report is not an exhaustive review of every leading utility or program administrator, nor is it a ranking system. Instead, we tell the story of these 14 through analysis of performance data and discussions with program managers.
“How much energy do cities use?” We get that question a lot. The answer is, excepting a few cities, we generally don’t know. Only a handful of cities publish their energy use, and while the Energy Information Administration collects and reports a lot of great data on state- and utility-level energy consumption, they do not report city-level data.
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.
There are over 25 million small enterprises that form the backbone of our national economy. They are critical to the health of local economies, generating well over half of net new private-sector jobs, according to the US Small Business Administration. Many are home-based firms with few employees, but many also occupy commercial retail space. The small business sector uses over 30% of all commercial space, more than 20 billion square feet of buildings to be heated, cooled, and lit up.
New studies are showing what we already know: energy efficiency keeps electricity affordable and reduces environmental compliances costs
Multiple studies looking at spending and savings across programs, over time and in multiple states, all show the same thing: energy efficiency is highly cost effective. Put another way, it keeps electricity affordable by meeting demand and environmental regulations at a lower cost than if we generated new power, including from clean energy resources.
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.
Utilities have options when it comes to meeting customer demand for electricity. They can build power plants to convert fossil fuels to energy. They can capture renewable resources like solar and wind. And they can work with residents and businesses to lower demand by implementing energy efficiency programs.