EIA: Reduced electric demand has halved carbon emissions in power sector

Blog Post | November 02, 2018 - 10:56 am
By R. Neal Elliott, Senior Director for Research

Finally, some good news! Recent hurricanes and major climate reports have heightened awareness of climate change and the dire need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This week, a blog post from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows energy efficiency is a vital climate solution. Half of the carbon dioxide emission reductions in the electric power sector since 2005 have come from stopping growth in demand for electricity, as shown in the EIA’s graphic. Other research finds that a large part of the demand reduction is due to consumer energy efficiency.

This result confirms the findings in a 2016 ACEEE report that the US economy has grown even as US electricity use has plateaued. The report shows that policy-driven energy efficiency since 1990 has become the third-largest electricity resource in the United States; without it, we would need the equivalent of 313 additional large power plants to meet the country’s energy needs. If savings from appliance standards, utility programs, and building codes reached their full potential, they would become our nation’s largest electricity resource by 2030, providing a wealth of benefits.

Our research has also found that energy efficiency holds the potential for even greater CO2 emission reductions in the future. It can contribute at least half of the 80% reduction by 2050, which many consider the necessary contribution from the United States to meeting climate goals, while growing the economy and saving consumers money.