As our new fact sheet shows, energy efficiency supports millions of US jobs and attracts billions of dollars in capital each year. It is probably the single most important source of energy we have. The economy has grown by almost 150% since 1980. Powering that growth has been an increase in energy consumption of about 20 quadrillion BTUs. Over that same period, energy efficiency delivered more than 50 quads worth of energy services, far outpacing not just oil but also coal, gas, nuclear power, and all other sources of energy combined. (See our report The Greatest Energy Story You Haven't Heard.)
At the same time, while efficiency employment grabs far fewer headlines than automotive jobs, a recent report by the Department of Energy found that efficiency employs about twice as many people.
Yet people generally don’t think about energy efficiency in the same way they think about other sources of energy or other sectors of the economy. That’s understandable, because energy efficiency is not a commodity like oil, whose price we follow closely, and it’s not a bellwether industry like the auto sector, whose production and employment are key economic indicators. Energy efficiency itself is largely invisible, and its economic impacts are spread throughout the economy, making them hard to see.
Investing in energy efficiency is vital. A key driver of long-term economic growth is productivity: how much we can create with the resources we have at our disposal. At its simplest, energy efficiency is productivity: getting more out the energy we use. Investments in energy efficiency feed the engine of long-term economic growth and the jobs that result from it.
We see the power of this productivity when we do economic modeling of efficiency investments. We use the ACEEE DEEPER model to assess the economic implications of a range of efficiency policies and investments. In talking about the job-creating power of efficiency, most people imagine workers in hard hats installing efficient windows and other equipment. These are important and easy to identify, but our modeling consistently shows that for every job installing energy efficiency measures, the energy these measures save creates between one and three more.
Investments in energy efficiency not only create jobs on their own but they also free up resources to invest and create jobs elsewhere in the economy. This is the power of energy efficiency. It helps us do more with less, creating a faster growing, more stable economy and the dynamic job growth that comes with it.
More Case Studies
Tom Hughes, 31, worked in the auto industry for a decade, repairing cars and helping run dealerships. He didn’t find the work gratifying so a little more than two years ago, he switched careers. Following somewhat in the footsteps of his dad, a building inspector, he learned how to inspect homes for energy efficiency. He joined PEG, a Virginia-based engineering and consulting firm, as a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rater. “I didn’t want to do a desk job,” he says. He enjoys doing blower door and duct testing in the field, and if a home doesn’t meet code or Energy Star standards, figuring out why. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” he says, adding people appreciate when you help them save money on their utility bills. Recently promoted, Hughes is now training others in the field.
In 2006, the paper mill that was the heart of the economy in Park Falls, Wisconsin, shut down. But new owners led by Butch Johnson bought the mill, rehired about 300 employees, and invested in energy efficiency improvements including in the steam system, pumps, lighting, heat recovery, and process improvements. More than $10 million in savings in the first few years made the plant more competitive. Johnson said that without state assistance on energy efficiency, “our mill would be less competitive, less green and less energy efficient, and we may not be in business today.”