Could the U.S. Cut Household Electricity Use by Two-Thirds?

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Your mind-blowing chart of the day, courtesy of Arne Jungjohann at the Heinrich Böll Foundation. To be fair, there’s little need for air conditioning in Germany compared to the United States, but air conditioning only accounts for about 20% of U.S. household electricity consumption. Leaving it out makes it 9,200 kWh vs. 3,100 kWh.


Source for U.S. use; source for German use; used U.S. average household size of 2.6.

This post originally appeared on ILSR’s Energy Self-Reliant States blog.

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John Farrell

John directs the Democratic Energy program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His seminal paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (, and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at

John Farrell has 518 posts and counting. See all posts by John Farrell

13 thoughts on “Could the U.S. Cut Household Electricity Use by Two-Thirds?

  • Living in a 1400 sq. ft. house my average electricity use is less than 200 kWh per month, however I don’t have a TV nor do I ever have more than a single light on and I use central air sparingly. Two-thirds below the present average would be quite difficult for most Americans.

    That said, off-grid site sourcing of electricity could easily reduce the average American household grid consumption to this lower level, so long as in-situ sourced power can cheaply be integrated into a home’s power system.

    • Congratulations great efficency! 😀
      I guess you are not stuck with an electric water heater are you? 😉 That thing seriously pushes our electricity demand up.

      Imagine the possibilities of today:
      Plus energy home at passiv house standard…
      1600 sq. ft. house and producing a surpluss of 1500-2500 kWh electric per year. (Including heating/cooling, light and all the funk)
      1500 kWh are enough to drive 7500 km with an electric vehicle. 😉

      Awesome world we life in…

      • No electric water heater, thankfully. I also turned the breaker for my furnace off, when not using it for heat nor for it circulating the central air, due to determining it was drawing nearly a kWh daily when not being used.

        • Wow, that furnance is quite a nasty little energy hog.

          We are looking forward to replace our fridge this year. We “inherited” a model from the mid-90s when we moved in our current appartment. 
          I guess it’s the second biggest consumer (after the water heater) in our household. 
          A new “A+++”-rated fridge consumes just 60-90 kWh per year (less than your furnance 😉 ). 

          • Thomas – tell us more about that fridge.

          • Thanks. That’s a small refer for the American market (300l, 10.6 cu ft). I don’t think it would get much play in the market as the main house refer (as if anyone needs more than one). I lived for some years with a 9 cu ft and it was cramped, even for one person.

            Just for comparison, I’m currently using an 18 cu ft (510l), ten year old Energy Star that uses a bit less than 1kW per day. On a volume : volume basis the one you linked is more efficient.

          • No Bob, that can’t be true. A 250 l refrigerator cramped for one person?

            You do know that a fridge is the same as an attic as a hard drive as a boot as a garage? Having a bigger one just invites you to keep more unused sh*t.

    • not to mention that US houses are generally much larger… hard to cut energy to such a level with the house is much bigger. the big house trend seems to be waning, but no way the avg size is coming down to that of Germany anytime soon.

  • Woops…didn’t read…lol…please delete this comment

    • Completely agree. I now live in neighboring Poland and AC is basically not needed almost anywhere. (And not in place almost anywhere.) I imagine there’s more AC in Germany, but still very little use for it and a lot less than in the US. I’m from FL — that’s a diff planet. The state wouldn’t be NEARLY as populated as it is if it weren’t for AC … too many people would die from heat stroke 😛 (ok, more importantly, almost no one would move there). And AC sucks a ton of energy. Of course, FL isn’t the only hot state in the US. Much of the US lives on AC. But anyway…

  • when i went to Germany, I noticed how many homes had solar panels on their roofs, that’s obviously because of bigger subsidies for alternative energy and much higher electricity costs

    • They have a relatively simple system. They require that utilities pay a certain price for electricity generated from solar.

      Goes a long way….

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