Promote 21st Century Energy Efficiency and Advanced Technologies

More efficient use of our vast energy resources remains an important component of America’s long-term energy strategy. Leveraging policies, markets and technologies that promote energy efficiency has generally been the fastest, least expensive way to meet our energy demand. The projected path of energy intensity for the U.S.—energy use per unit of GDP—is expected to continue to improve to an even greater extent than in the previous four decades. Today, it takes just half of the amount of energy to produce a dollar of GDP than it did in 1970.

Encouraging the development and economic use of advanced energy technologies should be an integral part of our energy policy. America’s scientists and engineers must be challenged to accelerate breakthroughs in the cost-effectiveness and performance of renewable, nuclear, fusion, energy storage, smart-grid and many other technologies that have the potential to alter the way energy is produced, delivered and consumed.

Will Upward Trends in Energy Efficiency Continue?

Residential and commercial buildings account for 40 % of U.S. energy consumption. Residential energy efficiency has improved by just one percent per year, whereas commercial buildings have improved greatly in recent years. High energy prices, coupled with a tough economic climate, have led to a greater focus on energy savings.

The industrial sector represents 31 percent of U.S. energy use and has vast, unrealized savings potential. About 80 percent of industrial energy use is associated with motors, steam, compressed air, pumps, fans, process heating, combustion heat, and electricity. New off-the-shelf technologies and better energy-management devices can spur significant energy savings.

Because bulk electricity is not easily stored, supply must equal demand. New regulatory models could reward saving electricity through the implementation of energy efficiency programs and new approaches to delivery and billing.

The federal government is the largest single user of energy in the nation and is required under the Energy Independence and Security Act to reduce energy intensity by 30 percent by 2015. Continuing to reduce energy intensity, which is the amount of energy it takes to produce a dollar of gross domestic product, is one of but not the only way to measure our nation's efficiency. For the government, the Energy Savings Performance Contracts program is an important tool for realizing this goal. These critical tools help enable federal government agencies to meet their energy-intensity goals with no upfront cost to taxpayers and, if used to their full potential, could create tens of thousands of jobs.

Encouraging the Development and Adoption of Energy-Efficient Technologies

The U.S. should maintain a leadership role in advanced energy technologies by supporting a broad-based technology portfolio. In addition to its applied research at the National Labs, DOE’s ARPA-E program has created a place where R&D focused on novel, high-risk technology is encouraged. We must also create an environment for R&D in the private sector, which manages two-thirds ($250 billion) of R&D in the U.S.

Want to know more about energy efficiency? Read the full report, Energy Works for US.

  • Power generation accounts for 40% of U.S. energy consumption.
  • Consumers could save $23 billion through new appliance standards and the use of new energy-efficient technologies.
  • By 2030, 185,000 jobs could be generated by new appliance standards and the use of new energy-efficient technologies.
  • Data Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, U.S. Energy Information Administration
Policy Recommendations
  • Congress and the president should enact legislation to boost private-sector investment in building efficiency upgrades, help manufacturers reduce energy use, update lighting and appliance standards, and strengthen building codes.
  • DOE should update and set performance-based, easily implemented national model building energy codes.
  • DOE should expeditiously promulgate appliance standards to meet statutory requirements.
  • The president should mandate that federal agencies use the Energy Savings Performance Contracts program as the first energy efficiency option and ensure that staff are knowledgeable about ESPC contracting and management.
  • More efficient use of energy and new approaches to the delivery of energy services should be rewarded.
  • Congress and the president should reduce the cost recovery period for energy efficiency devices.
  • TThe federal government should support a broad R&D portfolio on both the supply and demand sides, including energy efficiency, new energy sources, and advanced fuel and power delivery options.
  • Congress should continue to fund ARPA-E’s efforts to support high-risk research on innovative energy technologies with high breakthrough potential.
  • Congress should establish a long-term R&D tax credit that supports greater certainty around R&D planning.
  • Congress should create financial instruments to accelerate the market penetration of viable, more advanced, cleaner, and more efficient energy technologies. Public-private partnerships should continue to be the model to support demonstration projects.