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Energy Efficiency: Is the United States Improving?

White Paper


Sara Hayes, Naomi Baum, and Garrett Herndon


This paper is the beginning of an annual effort to examine and characterize the overall state of energy efficiency in the United States and determine whether it has improved, declined, or stayed the same since the previous year. ACEEE has developed a list of 15 indicators that together create a snapshot of energy efficiency across the U.S. economy.

Is the United States moving in the right direction? ACEEE’s energy efficiency indicators demonstrate that the United States is becoming more energy efficient, but the improvements we measured are generally modest, indicating that our economy overall has made only moderate progress. Five indicators show some meaningful progress: state energy efficiency program savings; reductions in energy use in residential buildings; standards for fuel economy; building codes; and standards for appliances. Improvements in energy productivity and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions may reflect other factors so may not be indicators of a long-term trend. Seven indicators showed only small or no improvements and one showed backsliding. To put the nation on the right path, the United States needs to be far more aggressive, embracing meaningful policies and programs that can lead to significant improvements in U.S. energy efficiency.