“Thinking Big” on Efficiency Could Cut U.S. Energy Costs up to $16 Trillion, Create up to 1.9 Million Net Jobs by 2050

America is thinking too small when it comes to energy efficiency … according to a major new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The new report outlines three scenarios under which the U.S. could either continue on its current path or cut energy consumption by the year 2050 almost 60 percent, add nearly two million net jobs in 2050, and save energy consumers as much as $400 billion per year (the equivalent of $2600 per household annually).

According to ACEEE, the secret to major economic gains from energy efficiency is a more productive investment pattern of increased investments in energy efficiency, which would allow lower investments in power plants and other supply infrastructure, thereby substantially lowering overall energy expenditures on an economy-wide basis in the residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, and electric power sectors.

“The evidence suggests that without a greater emphasis on the more efficient use of energy resources, there may be as many as three jokers in the deck that will threaten the robustness of our nation’s future economy,” explains John A. “Skip” Laitner, ACEEE’s director of economic and social analysis.

Examples of potential large-scale energy efficiency savings identified by ACEEE include the following:

  • Electric Power. Our current system of generating and delivering electricity to U.S. homes and businesses is an anemic 31 percent energy efficient. That is, for every three units of coal or other fuel we use to generate the power, we manage to deliver less than one unit of electricity to our homes and businesses. What the U.S. wastes in the generation of electricity is more than Japan needs to power its entire economy. What is even more astonishing is that our current level of (in)efficiency is essentially unchanged in the half century since 1960, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower spent his last year in the White House.
  • Transportation.   The fuel economy of conventional petroleum-fueled vehicles continues to grow while hybrid, electric, and fuel cell vehicles gain large shares, totaling nearly three-quarters of all new light-duty vehicles in 2050 in the report’s middle scenario. Aviation, rail, and shipping energy use declines substantially in this scenario through a combination of technological and operational improvements. In the most aggressive scenario, there is a shift toward more compact development patterns, and greater investment in alternative modes of travel and other measures that reduce both passenger and freight vehicle miles traveled. This scenario also phases out conventional light-duty gasoline vehicles entirely, increases hybrid and fuel cell penetration for heavy-duty vehicles, and reduces aviation energy use by 70 percent.
  • Buildings.   In residential and commercial buildings the evidence suggests potential reductions of space heating and cooling needs as the result of building shell improvements of up to 60 percent in existing buildings, and 70-90 percent in new buildings. The ACEEE scenarios also incorporate advanced heating and cooling systems (e.g., gas and ground-source air conditioners and heat pumps and condensing furnaces and boilers), decreased energy distribution losses, advanced solid-state lighting, and significantly more efficient appliances.
  • Industry. In the industrial sector, energy efficiency opportunities reduce 2050 energy use by up to half, coming less from equipment efficiency and more from optimization of complex systems. The ACEEE analysis focuses on process optimization in the middle scenario, but also anticipates even greater optimization of entire supply chains in the most aggressive scenario, allowing for more efficient use of feedstocks and elimination of wasted production.

Are such advances in energy efficiency realistic?

As the ACEEE report points out, the U.S. already has achieved considerable advances in the energy efficiency context and is poised to do more: “The U.S. economy has tripled in size since 1970 and three-quarters of the energy needed to fuel that growth came from an amazing variety of efficiency advances-not new energy supplies. Indeed, the overwhelming emphasis in current policy debates on finding new energy supplies is such that emphasis on new supplies may be crowding out investments and innovations that can help to achieve greater levels of energy productivity. Going forward, the current economic recovery, and our future economic prosperity, will depend more on new energy efficiency behaviors and investments than we’ve seen in the last 40 years.”

This is a news release published by ACEEE. You can find the whole report at the ACEEE website.

13 Responses to “Thinking Big” on Efficiency Could Cut U.S. Energy Costs up to $16 Trillion, Create up to 1.9 Million Net Jobs by 2050

  1. fj says:

    Efficiency is about better design, eliminating waste, lowering costs, often making things work better, more resilient, agile, adaptive; can facilitate much closer integration with natural systems requires advanced skills for rapid design, development and deployment; a no brainer for going low carbon to stop climate change at wartime speed.

  2. Steve Lounsbury says:

    “Thinking Big” on Efficiency Could Cut U.S. Energy Costs up to $16 Trillion, Create up to 1.9 Million Net Jobs by 2050

    Not if the Koch Brothers have anything to do with it.

  3. Colorado Bob says:

    Nuclear Aftershocks is a new FRONTLINE documentary, airing tomorrow, January 17, at 10:00 pm Eastern.

    I watched an advance screener yesterday.

    About halfway through Nuclear Aftershocks, a new FRONTLINE documentary about the physical and social fallout of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it becomes clear that correspondent Miles O’Brien and his production team are really going to piss some people off. In the best possible way.

  4. SecularAnimist says:

    I don’t see what is “the best possible way” about “pissing people off” with the nuclear power industry’s standard, scripted, boilerplate falsehoods about wind and solar energy.

  5. SecularAnimist says:

    The ACEEE says: “emphasis on new supplies may be crowding out investments and innovations that can help to achieve greater levels of energy productivity”

    Which is just what the fossil fuel corporations want.

    Increasing efficiency reduces demand for their products. That’s why their bought-and-paid-for politicians are as opposed to efficiency improvements as they are to alternative energy.

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    Yet another “All Time Record” from the water machine broken –

    After a jaw-dropping blizzard on Monday (Jan. 9), a record-breaking 81.3 inches (207 centimeters) of snow has fallen in Anchorage this winter, the National Weather Service (NWS) said today (Jan. 12). That’s nearly 7 feet (2.1 meters) of snow.

    The total is a new record for most snow from July to Jan. 11. This year’s total so far is nearly double what Anchorage usually receives by that date — certainly not the wimpy winter the rest of the country has had. The new record is 4 inches more than the previous record, set in 1977.

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    SA –
    Maggie @ Boing Boing is a clear eyed writer, watch the thing and see if her choice of words is right.

  8. NJP1 says:

    creating new energy sources’ misses the point, we use electrical energy sure, heat light and so on, but we actually use hydrocarbons to live.
    we use them for literally every that supports our civilisation, most importantly our food supply—all of it.we have no alternatives for that.

  9. dick smith says:

    Thanks for the headsup. The review you linked to was good–raised some difficult questions at the end.

  10. Mark Shapiro says:

    Yes! Efficiency is job 1.

    Every builder, designer, contractor, and architect should be competing to build the most efficient products.

    And we consumers should demand more efficiency in every product.

  11. Tim says:

    To the contrary, energy efficiency becomes even more important when you take your observation into account. It is stupid to burn hydrocarbons for energy if there is any alternative. They are far too valuable as chemical/polymer/materials precursors to burn them!

  12. Ed says:

    Did the ACEEE report say where businesses and individuals will get the money to pay for this efficiency? It will cost trillions to make these energy efficiency investments. We are buried in debt and the banks aren’t lending.

    Maybe we should fund the efficiency work with savings from energy conservation (changing behavior). Conservation is FREE. No mention in the article about conservation!

  13. thanes says:

    Ahhhh! Just read John Tierney’s NYT article about the NASA mitigation study about methane and black soot! My eyes are burning! I forgot my head vise! Logic! Oh the humanity! Oh the humanity!