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February 26, 2013 - 9:28am

By R. Neal Elliott, Associate Director for Research

Today I have the privilege of testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. My hope is that this is the beginning of a discussion that will lead to federal energy efficiency legislation later this year. Congress has a unique opportunity to strengthen our economy through energy efficiency, save the nation millions of dollars, and curb pollution. My testimony will illustrate the powerful benefits of this essential energy resource and discuss five areas of potential legislative action.

Appliance and equipment standards have been one of the greatest energy efficiency policy success stories of the last quarter-century. These standards have resulted in cumulative energy savings since 1987 of 3.4 quads in 2010, with the net present value of consumer savings from standards already in place set to save about $1.1 trillion through 2035.

Building energy codes are universally recognized as the easiest and most cost-effective way to help consumers save energy and money, making housing more affordable and reducing air pollution. ...

February 18, 2013 - 11:13am

By John A. "Skip" Laitner, Consultant

It turns out that the U.S. embraces energy efficiency in a big way. According to a new report we released today, ACEEE estimates that in 2010 (the latest year for which data is available) $479–670 billion was spent in the U.S. on energy efficiency goods and services such as energy efficiency program expenditures, sales of ENERGY STAR products, investments in building efficiency improvements, repairs and new construction, trends in manufacturing energy use and investments, and sales of efficient vehicles.

The incremental cost of advancement in energy efficiency (e.g., upgrading from an average refrigerator to an ENERGY STAR model) was $72–$101 billion in 2010. These estimates are consistent with a range of past studies, and are significantly greater than our estimate for investments in 2004. Our findings are summarized in a new fact sheet, also released today.

To give some context, the United States spent about $170 billion in 2010 on conventional energy supply, including things like transmission lines, drilling equipment, oil wells, and power plants. The...

February 15, 2013 - 1:59pm

By Rachel Young, National Policy Research Analyst

Cross-posted from the blog of the U.S. Green Building Council, Northern California Chapter

The President’s inauguration speech sparked renewed dialogue about the need for a comprehensive energy plan to address climate change. Recent decreases in lake levels in Texas is causing the city of Wichita Falls to look for new ways to stabilize their water supplies. Frequently missing from both of these discussions is the inherent relationship between water and energy.  This relationship should be capitalized on when crafting programs and policies aimed at solving these tough issues at the national and municipal level.

Energy is needed to transport, treat, heat, cool, and recycle water and, conversely, water is needed in energy extraction, production, and processing. As a result, saving water saves energy and saving energy saves water. This overlap between energy and water has come to be known as...

February 14, 2013 - 12:17pm

By Sara Hayes, Senior Manager and Researcher, Policy and Utilities

It’s been a tough couple of years for many states. Coping with an economic recession, unemployment, and budget shortages has left some states anticipating an austere future. As states attempt to sort out a financial future that makes sense, they are searching for the lowest cost approaches to provide basic resources to their citizens, including affordable power and clean air.

For some, the coupling of affordable power and clean air seems as unlikely to succeed as that unlikely movie couple, Harold and Maude. The problem with this way of thinking, though, is the failure to recognize the lynchpin that can move us towards a future with both. Energy efficiency is the low-cost energy resource that meets the needs of customers while reducing the pollution that comes from the power sector. In fact, energy efficiency reduces all the key pollutants that are generated by power plants and is a resource large enough to offset dozens of old coal-fired power plants. While energy efficiency isn’t flashy and may be a bit of a wallflower in the energy sector, its potential is startling.

So this Valentine’s Day we have a gift for optimists and romantics everywhere. Today ACEEE is publishing a new tool dedicated to helping states and their citizens flourish. The tool...

February 13, 2013 - 9:48am

By Steven Nadel, Executive Director

Last night during his State of the Union address President Obama embraced a variety of policy proposals including several addressing energy efficiency. Most importantly for energy efficiency, the President issued “a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years.” By supporting energy efficiency, the President has made a smart investment that will pay off immediately and down the line for future generations. There’s a good reason why energy efficiency has broad support among business and legislators across the aisle, it’s one of the great cost saving success stories for the nation in the last three decades and still has large untapped potential.

To help achieve this goal the President noted that “states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.”  In supplementary material, the White House discusses “race to the top” awards in which states compete “to implement effective policies to increase energy efficiency and help reduce waste.” At ACEEE, we released a study;...

February 12, 2013 - 12:00pm

By Daniel Trombley, Senior Industrial Analyst

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the resurgence of manufacturing in America. Whether you call it reshoring, backshoring, or insourcing, manufacturing companies have been bringing product manufacturing back to the U.S. from overseas, when just a few years ago it was taken for granted that U.S. manufacturing was in an inexorable decline. Over the past year, this topic has been covered by The Economist, The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times(registration required) and the White House’s National Economic Council.  Recently Charles Fishman at The Atlantic Monthly has weighed in with an article titled  “The Insourcing Boom,” where  he describes...

February 6, 2013 - 5:30pm

By Sara Hayes, Senior Manager and Researcher, Policy and Utilities

Energy efficiency is good for the environment, electric reliability, and customers’ pocketbooks, and yet some utilities continue to balk. A new report on decoupling shows that utilities can collect revenues lost due to energy efficiency measures without harming customers. First, a bit of background is helpful….

The bulk of most people’s energy bills is based on the volume of electricity or gas they buy. In most cases, that volume—in kilowatt hours (kwh) or therms—is multiplied by an electric or gas rate. Energy efficiency helps customers to reduce the kwh or therms they need to...

January 31, 2013 - 10:01am

By Andrew deLaski, Executive Director, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)

In his Inaugural Speech last week, President Obama described action to limit climate change as both a moral imperative and smart economic policy. Calling for American leadership, he said, “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries—we must claim its promise.”

Unfortunately, of late, the administration has failed to lead in one area that is firmly in the President’s hands: saving energy and cutting pollution through improved appliance and equipment energy-efficiency standards.

Over the past two years, the administration has missed deadline after deadline for completing new or updated standards for products ranging from microwave ovens to commercial refrigerators to industrial motors. These delays impose a steep cost. 

In a new analysis completed this week by ASAP and ACEEE, we found that the delays to date for eight overdue standards will result in about 40 million metric tons of excess carbon dioxide emissions.  Consumers and businesses will also lose—about $3.7 billion so far.

Our analysis shows that each additional month of delay means consumers and businesses will lose another $300 million in savings and another 4.4 million...

January 17, 2013 - 10:11am

By Dan York, Utilities, State, and Local Policy Program Fellow

The impact that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has had on the energy picture in the U.S. has been profound. Natural gas prices have plummeted. Supplies have increased sharply. The long-term outlook for natural gas is a radical departure from historic trends, with apparently abundant supplies and low costs forecast, rather than scarcity and high prices. It’s no wonder that natural gas fracking has overshadowed almost all other energy news of the past year. But it’s not the only energy story of importance.

Over the past decade, many states have established policies intended to push the envelope of what is possible through improved energy efficiency to lower energy costs, improve the environment, and promote economic development. A primary means to achieve these objectives has been energy efficiency programs serving electric and natural gas customers. With over three decades of experience in some states, these programs have reaped tremendous energy savings over the years.

This past success has been the driver behind state policies that have set high savings targets for these programs. The energy efficiency envelope has been pushed from a number of other policy directions. Higher appliance and equipment standards are in place for an ever wider range of consumer and business products. Numerous states are strengthening building codes that greatly increase...

January 15, 2013 - 1:26pm

By Andrew deLaski, Executive Director, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)

In a dose of bad news yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposed to settle a lawsuit brought by the American Public Gas Association (APGA) that seeks to roll back gas furnace efficiency standards. As a result, the new standards, completed in 2011 and slated to take effect this May, would be eliminated in favor of yet another round of DOE hearings and studies. The losers: consumers and the environment. The bill: more than $10 billion in lost savings and an extra 80 to 130 million metric tons of completely unnecessary global warming emissions, according to DOE’s analysis.

With new evidence piling up confirming that we need to be seriously ramping up efforts to stave off the worst effects of climate change, now is a lousy time to go backwards on simple steps like improved home heating energy efficiency. Space heating remains the single largest home energy use. The standards would have required that gas furnaces installed in the northern half of the country reach 90% or better efficiency. Today’s basic furnaces have an efficiency of just 80%, so the standards would have...