Nationwide over the last few years, utilities have been expanded energy efficiency efforts that began in 2007, so that in four years, the savings have grown by 80 percent. Each year energy use has actually been cut. It saves money. At between 3 and 5 cents a kilowatt-hour—it’s cheaper to save energy than make energy, even from coal.
According to the Institute for Electric Efficiency, the 2010 reduction alone cut 112 terawatt-hours (TWh) from U.S. energy use, a 3 percent cut in total U.S. electricity use of about 4,000 TWh a year. Every year it has been more, so 2011 will bring a bigger cut.
Ed Wisniewski, executive director of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, says, “Over the four years since 2007, savings impacts have grown 80 percent, justifying the ramp-up of investment in efficiency that’s also occurred over this time period. This scale affords a unique opportunity to address the challenges ahead and reap the tremendous savings that are still available cost-effectively.”
Graphs of energy intensity like the one above, from National Energy Policy Institute’s Energy Forum Online for the U.S., now make a downward trajectory on energy use, whereas it used to keep rising year by year.
The graph of California’s electricity use provides a 40-year example. The state’s economy grew phenomenally from the 1970s till now, but its electricity use flatlined since the ’70s, the result of deliberate energy efficiency policy. Every other state’s growth in GDP was closely paralleled by its rise in energy use.
With climate an issue for policymakers (at least state-level) since around 2005, other states are following California’s example. Policies were put in place to cut greenhouse gases, including cutting energy intensity. And these policies work.
Architecture2030 also published evidence of the impressive drop in energy use in buildings (the orange line in the graph above) through better building codes in place since 2005, by way of urging us forward to yet more impressive gains for the future that will save Americans at least $3 trillion in energy bills till 2030, and $6 trillion with the further tightening of building codes they propose.
The EIA estimates of residential and commercial building energy use to 2030 have dropped dramatically since 2005—by nearly 70 percent —due to improved energy efficiency in buildings. Similar gains have been made in other areas in reducing energy use, as stories here attest every day.
We read of consumers who now demand discounts if they are energy efficient in states that have long charged you more if you use less energy—a truly perverse incentive (and an odd idea to someone from California which has had the opposite incentive in policy since the 1970s.)
But if you didn’t routinely ingest energy news on greentech sites like Earthtechling, the startling effect of these kinds of graphs of news of energy drops must look alarming, like a warning of danger.
To money guys, all graphs are supposed to go up – not down! But it’s not the evidence of catastrophe they think.
It’s a feature; not a bug.
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