What Will Drive More Energy Efficiency

Who will Energy Efficiency benefit more, the users who get all the energy and cost-saving advantages or the investors who get all the investment opportunities? The answer is both. It’s an everybody-wins competition. Everybody saves on their energy bill, the power supply is more secure, the climate is cooled, the environment is cleaned, jobs boom and entrepreneurs get rich.

The biggest winner is the national economy. Aside from the budget-healing results from the private sector opportunities, it is estimated that every public dollar invested in Energy Efficiency returns $2, $3 or perhaps even $4 in energy savings. That money can be reinvested in the building of New Energy infrastructure that will have more and better returns farther along.

Energy Efficiency is also the biggest bang for the buck: Investment in Energy Efficiency buys the cheapest emissions-free kilowatt-hours there are because it produces kilowatt-hours that don’t have to be generated. Energy visionary Amory Lovins calls them Negawatts.

The obvious next question is, “why isn’t this already being done?” Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have been studying just that question. Energy Efficiency Policy in the United States: Overview of Trends at Different Levels of Government goes back to the pioneering California efficiency measures of the 1970s and catalogues the policies that have been used at the 3 levels of government (federal, state, and local) to drive Energy Efficiency in the 4 major economic sectors (buildings, transportation, industrial, and power).

The paper comes up with 4 key findings… ::continue::

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4 key findings about Energy Efficiency (EE) policies, a topic surpassed only by transmission in its unsexiness:

(1) Driving EE requires leadership and leadership is emerging at all 3 governmental levels;

(2) Policies to drive EE vary and no accepted method for comparing their effectiveness has emerged;

(3) As technologies and opportunities advance, EE policies will be more effective if their implementation is coordinated across the 3 levels of government and the 4 economic sectors; and

(4) The experience from implementing EE policies in a single economic sector will be instructive to their implementation in the other sectors.

The paper thoroughly documents its claims about the value of EE, with complete references and links to 2009 studies by McKinsey, the International Energy Agency, Gigaton Throwdown and WBCSD, a 2008 APS study and a 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change study, among others.

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This post is based on Energy Efficiency Policy in the United States: Overview of Trends at Different Levels of Government by Elizabeth Doris, Jaquelin Cochran, and Martin Vorum, December 2009, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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