Real Prospects for Energy Efficiency in the United States

Released by the National Academy of Sciences, December 9, 2009

The following exerpt is from a brief describing a book recently released by the National Academy of Sciences which examines the potential for reducing energy use by using existing and prospective energy efficiency technologies. This book analyzes costs, barriers, and research needs and evaluates these technologies according to their estimated commercial deployment times.

America is the world’s largest user of energy, and our energy consumption has doubled since 1963. In fact, most developed countries use far less energy per person and per dollar of gross domestic product (GDP) than the United States. Those countries’ use of energy effi ciency technologies accounts for about 50 percent of this difference. Even in the United States, energy effi ciency improvements have contributed substantially to holding electricity use per capita in California and New York constant since 1980, even as this ratio expanded by 50 percent in the rest of the country. Expanding our use of these technologies can allow the United States to use less energy and maintain economic growth.

This report from the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering examines a wide range of energy effi ciency technologies in the buildings, transportation, and industry sectors that are available now or expected to be developed in the normal course of business in the next decade. Assuming consumers and businesses will adopt these technologies more quickly than they have previously, the report finds that America could reduce energy use by 17 to 22 percent by 2020 and 25 to 31 percent by 2030. In buildings alone, these technologies could eliminate the need to increase electric generating capacity, despite economic and population growth. Cost-effective energy improvements are the cheapest and quickest way to move toward a sustainable energy future with lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Report in Brief

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