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Energy Efficiency

US Energy Use Per $1 Halved Over Last 35 Years Via Improved Energy Efficiency

Improvements in energy efficiency (amongst other things) have led to energy intensity (the measure of energy use per dollar of GDP) being halved over the last 35 years, according to a recent report from the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

aceee-logoTo be more specific, energy intensity has fallen from 12.1 thousand Btus per dollar (back in 1980) to 6.1 thousand Btus per dollar (as of 2014), according to the recent analysis.

The report from the ACEEE noted that roughly 60% of the cut in energy intensity was the result of improvements to energy efficiency, and roughly 40% was the result of “major structural changes in the economy.”

The savings that accompanied the cut coming from energy efficiency have been estimated as standing at $800 billion (around $2,500 per capita).

Worth nothing here is that the report (which can be found here) concluded with the prediction that “while much progress has been made, there are large and cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities that, by 2050, can collectively reduce energy use by 40–60% relative to current forecasts.” (Remember that US households often use much more — more or less double — the energy that European households use.)


The ACEEE Executive Director (and report co-author) Steven Nadel commented: “Energy efficiency has made great strides in the past 35 years, and we have learned many important lessons on how markets and policies can work together to advance it. Looking forward, we find opportunities to reduce 2050 energy use by half relative to a business-as-usual reference case. In order to harvest these large efficiency opportunities, we need to take our efforts to a higher level. The challenges are many, but so are the benefits in terms of lower energy bills, a stronger economy, improved energy security, and a cleaner environment. The past has shown us what efficiency can do and it can guide us to even greater success in the future.”

And, as the report put it: “Efficiency investments and savings also generate jobs, including direct jobs installing efficiency measures, indirect jobs upstream in the supply chain, and jobs induced as energy bill savings are spent elsewhere and multiply through the economy. Energy savings can also help to drive modest overall growth in the US economy.… Further, energy efficiency savings over the past 35 years have contributed to our nation’s security and improved our environment.… Reductions in energy consumption also mean reduced emissions of fuel-combustion by-products, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides (contributors to acid rain and smog), mercury and other toxic metals (contributors to health problems), and carbon dioxide (the predominant greenhouse gas).”

Energy efficiency has the cheapest “levelized cost of electricity” (LCOE) and is simply common sense. It doesn’t get the love that solar or wind energy get, but it is better in almost all respects, including job creation.

Lazard wind energy

Transit Rocks It. (Click Here To Enlarge.)

Image Credits: AEEE, Lazard, PERI

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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