American consumers could save more than $1 trillion on energy bills over the next 15 years, says a research report published Monday (March 18, 2013). The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy issued the report.
Its nine authors point out that the United States has made considerable progress in energy efficiency in recent years. "U.S. energy use is approximately half of what it would have been if we had not improved our efficiency over the past 40 years. Still, there are large, cost-effective opportunities to increase energy efficiency much further, thereby helping us to cut energy bills, reduce pollution, and encourage economic growth."
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1980 by leading researchers in the energy field. ACEEE's program areas include federal, state, and local energy policy, and communications (including conferences, publications, development, and a substantial corporate ally program).
Common building materials and appliances, using existing and in-process technologies only, offer us maximum efficiency we are currently not achieving, the experts say. The tools are already at our disposal: no support from government or mandated programs is necessary.
Proven applications for homes, rental properties, and businesses can reduce consumer expenses significantly by implementing energy efficiency and avoiding pollution costs, the report states. And this process does not mean leaving owners out of pocket. Some measures can be taken inexpensively and with little effort. Once thought too pricey, energy-efficient building materials and appliances continue to become more affordable and easier to find and install.
"More detailed information about the energy efficiency of household appliances and energy use data could help consumers save more than $1 trillion overall on their energy bills over the next 15 years," says Meg Handley in U.S. News and World Report. "Energy-efficient technologies currently available could further reduce the amount of energy the nation is projected to use by 20 percent, ...shaving thousands off energy bills over the long term while also reducing pollution." The move would also start slowing related climate change today.
Successful measures to double fuel efficiency in the auto industry --such as uniform vehicle testing and labeling, fuel economy standards, and tax incentives--point to the value of similar applications for appliances and new construction. Effective consumer education is key to the transition, the report indicates. We can go much farther in this realm than the current EnergyStar labeling. Homebuilder and landlord investment in energy-efficient technologies can also be encouraged without adding to the onus on homeowners and tenants.
The solutions all belong in the category of "sustainable energy," as defined by the British Renewable Energy and Efficiency Partnership: “the provision of energy such that it meets the needs of the future without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable Energy has two key components: renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
The ACEEE report analyzes policies that leverage market forces and address specific market failures and barriers to energy efficiency, without requiring substantial spending or government mandates. It includes two basic ways to cut down on government energy waste: (1) cost-consciously replacing antiquated or worn-out facilities, and (2) changing corporate tax codes to reduce deductions for energy-wasteful expenses and capital depreciation provisions for nonenergy-efficient equipment.
Related development today: A new Efficiency Resource Fund from efficiency-services financer Metrus Energy and CalCEF, an organization focused on accelerating use of clean energy technologies, will provide some hard-to-get financing businesses need to make energy-efficiency improvements with no upfront costs. This innovative funding source--an especially useful venue for construction industry pension funds--will enable manufacturers, schools, churches, and clinics throughout the U.S. to cut up to $15 billion a year on their energy bills over the next decade, fund managers say. Small- and mid-sized retrofit projects would benefit the most.
By paying attention to details like these, our legislators could make a big dent in recalcitrant American finances, as well as securing a less damaged environment.
Award-winning science writer Sandy Dechert covers developments and environmental issues in conventional, solar, wind, biomass, large and small hydroelectric, and geothermal energy. She detailed events and policy through the recent election campaign and at last fall's 18th UN climate change summit meeting in Doha, Qatar. Sandy has also reported on extreme weather disasters, including superstorm Sandy, winter storm Nemo, and the massive summer wildfires of the past decade.
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