Is the U.S. Progressing in Energy Efficiency?

THE United States has lagged behind the developed world in energy efficiency for a long time, are they now catching up? This is a question answered in ACEEE’s latest report.

With energy efficiency taking center stage last week when President Obama announced a series of steps the administration will be taking to address climate change. From increasing fuel economy standards on heavy duty vehicles to making commercial and industrial buildings 20% more efficient by 2020, it is gratifying to see energy efficiency have such a prominent role.

This Obama administration is taking progressive steps in the right direction, but the ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) raises the question as to whether the U.S. is really embracing energy efficiency? Has the country truly made progress compared to last year? Are they on track to achieve their energy efficiency potential?

To better assess U.S. efforts, ACEEE tracked national progress on energy efficiency over the last year. ACEEE’s Energy Efficiency: Is the United States Improving? is the first annual assessment of 15 national indicators. Some of the indicators reflect actions by states while others focus on national policies and performance.

To understand how they measured each indicator, check out their paper, it does indicate some meaningful progress in some areas, but also small or no progress in others, but also some reveres in others.

The ACEEE’s energy efficiency indicators show that the United States is becoming more energy efficient, but the improvements measured are generally small indicating that the nation are still wasting tremendous amounts of energy.

Progress is seen with savings from state energy efficiency programs and appliance standards, the fuel economy of new passenger vehicles, and reduced energy intensity in residential buildings.

However, we have seen no measurable progress in the use of public transit or in reductions in the energy intensity of freight transport, and we are backsliding in how much industrial electricity is generated by combined heat and power.

The small improvements seen in the rest of the indicators indicate that the U.S. have yet to embrace energy efficiency as a principal objective and are not doing enough to realize its full potential.

Obama’s commitment to cut energy waste in businesses, factories and homes by establishing a new goal for energy efficiency standards for equipment, reducing barriers to investments in energy efficiency, and expanding the Better Buildings Challenge are laudable efforts that are part of a broader goal to double energy productivity by 2030.

Energy efficiency is also a low-cost way to help realize the President’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The ACEEE concluded that to ensure the country accomplishes these goals, it will take aggressive and consistent leadership to pick up the pace of energy efficiency improvements.

ACEEE comment that energy efficiency may be emerging in the U.S. as a more prominent part of the energy conversation, and they are making some progress; however, if the U.S. is to realize their energy efficiency potential, they need to do much more, and to do it soon.

Picture supplied by the White House of President Barack Obama talks with Rob Nabors, Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Policy, center, and Miguel Rodriguez, Director of Legislative Affairs, in the Oval Office, June 24, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Friday 12th July 2013

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