Data Points Series
Keeping the lights on for customers is every electric utility’s top priority. To do so, utilities have choices. 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 their customers to more efficiently use energy, meeting demand by saving energy rather than generating it.
The industrial sector is unique among end-use sectors in that its energy intensity has declined consistently in recent decades, decreasing 45% from 1977 through 2016. The decline occurred even though the sector’s energy use has fluctuated, its output has almost doubled, and economic activity has risen and fallen with economic cycles.
Today the Trump Administration is launching an Energy Week to promote our nation’s “energy dominance” by increasing fossil fuel production. Notably absent in White House plans so far are discussions on how to increase energy efficiency, generally the cheapest way to meet our energy needs. Energy efficiency doesn’t just save us money, it supports millions of jobs. It should be included in a truly great Energy Week.
ACEEE started our DataPoint series of informative graphs in December 2015, with the first one on energy intensity and how it relates to energy efficiency. It provided data on US energy intensity and efficiency improvements from 1980–2014. Now two more years of data are available, and a revised figure is below.
For the past several years, ACEEE has tracked utility-sector natural gas savings at the state level as part of our State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. As part of our biennial City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, we collect natural gas savings data at the utility level. These two data sources help identify the leaders in gas energy efficiency savings.
As the US unemployment rate nears a 10-year low, some companies report trouble finding skilled workers. The problem is particularly pervasive, as new data show, in the energy efficiency sector.
More than 80% of employers in this sector report at least some difficulty finding qualified job applicants, and more than 40% indicate it’s “very difficult,” according to the Department of Energy’s second annual energy and employment report released this month.
The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized state-specific limits on greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. States can get most, if not all, of the emission savings they need by reducing the amount of electricity they are currently wasting. In the graph below, the light orange bars show that the listed states can achieve more than half of EPA’s 2030 limits with a few modest energy efficiency measures: 1% annual savings target, updated building codes, and 100 MW of new combined heat and power.
In a recent report released by ACEEE and Energy Efficiency for All, Lifting the High Energy Burden in America’s Largest Cities, we measured energy burdens in 48 of the largest cities in the United States. Energy burden means the percentage of household income that goes toward energy costs, and we looked specifically at utility energy bills (transportation energy costs are also a significant household expense, but it was outside the scope of the analysis).
Several recent sets of data show large improvements in lighting energy efficiency in recent years. First, DOE has commissioned two US Lighting Market Characterization studies – one with data on installed lighting in 2001, the other with data on installed lighting in 2012.
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.