A new ACEEE report released in May finds that investments in energy-efficient technologies reached $300 billion in 2004, or approximately three times the level of investment in new energy supply. In fact, energy efficiency may be the farthest-reaching, least-polluting, and fastest-growing energy success story of the last 50 years. The Size of the U.S. Energy Efficiency Market: Generating a More Complete Picture shows that past investments in efficiency slashed U.S. energy consumption from 18 thousand BTUs per dollar of economic output in 1970 to approximately 8.9 thousand BTUs per dollar today. Investments made in energy efficiency in 2004 generated energy savings of 1.7 quads of energy in that year alone—the equivalent output of 40 mid-sized power plants.
Investment in efficiency means that we can not only forgo the construction of many new power plants, reduce our level of energy consumption, and reduce our collective annual energy bills, but we can also effectively reduce our contribution to carbon dioxide emissions. Not surprisingly, efficiency is a wise and proven investment, but many cost-effective efficiency investment opportunities remain underdeveloped. The report includes estimates of annual efficiency investments and energy savings for each of the major energy sectors: residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, and utilities.