Marrying Efficiency and Renewables

Energy efficiency and renewable power together are better than either alone — that according to a recent report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the American Council on Renewable Energy Not a shocking conclusion, but an important one, especially in a world where it seems that all zero-carbon power are competing against each other for funding.

The report finds that synergies between renewables and efficiency would cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions more effectively than either alone. What kind of synergies?

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Timing is one … Efficiency can provide substantial short- and medium-term energy savings, while … renewable energy is now limited but can expand greatly over time.

Another synergy is geography, because renewable resources are unevenly divided throughout the country, while efficiency gains are available everywhere.

A third is economic — the report says the cost of saving energy is cheaper overall than current or new conventional power generation. Renewables, meanwhile, are often costlier than current conventional power sources, but are growing more competitive with new conventional power generation. “Combining these two resource types can reduce overall electricity system costs compared to a renewables-only approach,” the report notes.

What could be achieved by marrying the two approaches?

Efficiency efforts could curb electricity use by 24 percent over 20 years, and … by “aggressively” adding renewables to the electricity mix, carbon emissions from power generation could tumble by 46 percent.

Let’s have a wedding already!