Report: Efficiency and Renewables can Save US $200B Annually

  • Published on June 22nd, 2009

insulation key to energy efficiency

As Congress engages in the major debates surrounding climate and energy legislation, a broad coalition of consumer, economic and environmental advocacy groups has published a report on the substantial consumer savings that stronger energy efficiency and renewable energy standards would bring.

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Published by the Consumer Federation of America, Environment America, Energy Future Coalition and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the report (pdf) indicates that studies of the technical potential for easily implemented efficiency improvements show efficiency could lower demand by as much as 30 percent in states from all regions of the U.S. at costs well below the current cost of electricity.

“Efficiency and renewables are the lowest-cost, cleanest options we have for meeting future energy needs while also saving consumers billions on their monthly bills,” said Dr. Mark Cooper, CFA’s Director of Research and author of the report. Cooper told reporters in a recent conference call that efficiency and renewables “should be the cornerstone of our national energy policy, whether or not we adopt policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Siting a recent study published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the report indicated that a 25% renewable energy standard (RES) could actually reduce electricity cost and could also lead to a net consumer energy savings, slashing the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of 43.5 million cars, or 70 coal-fired power plants.

“If we do adopt policies like a cap and trade system, energy efficiency standards and renewable energy standards would be even more vital to keep consumers’ electricity bills down,” Cooper noted. “Without a robust EERS and a RES, utilities will have little incentive to increase their use of consumer-friendly efficiency and renewable energy sources and will continue to build capital-intensive central station facilities that maximize their profits, but clobber the consumer pocketbook.”

While the report suggests that lighting upgrades represent the biggest bang for the buck, huge savings can be made in building heating and cooling. In addition to insulating and sealing building leaks, the increased proliferation of variable speed motors can have a marked immediate impact on building energy use, particularly for larger buildings.

Variable speed motors prevent blowers from cycling on and off, thus smoothing-out energy demand spikes and lengthening the life of the motors. Variable speed motors eliminate the all-or-nothing nature of HVAC, providing greater control and consistency in building heating and cooling.

“The stakes for consumers are huge. By choosing these low-cost options, by 2030 consumer savings of 6 cents per kilowatt hour would total annual savings of over $200 billion per year,” Cooper added.

The report’s authors emphasize that a good home energy audit will help building owners prioritize and see their biggest gains.

Image via Justin S. Campbell under a Creative Commons License

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.

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