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  • [ February 20, 2013 ]
  • Energy efficiency could be more directly tied to the economy than new energy supply

A new analysis shows that U.S. economic productivity may be more closely tied to energy efficiency improvements than actual energy production.

John Laitner, a visiting fellow at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, developed a study to look at how much Americans spend on energy efficiency upgrades annually. He calculated a “rough estimate” of both the amount of money spent on equipment and infrastructure upgrades for the purpose of energy efficiency, and the amount spent on upgrades that might feature incrementally-efficient equipment purchased without direct energy efficiency intentions.

Looking at both types of energy efficiency across a range of sectors including utilities, manufacturing, construction, appliances, and automobiles, Laitner found that America spent a rough estimate of $574 billion on energy efficiency improvements in 2010. While exact numbers are difficult to calculate because of different definitions of energy efficiency improvements, Laitner reported that the data shows a three times larger economic impact of energy efficiency than new energy production since the 1970s.

Graph courtesy of greentechmedia.com.

The top blue line shows the economic activity associated with energy use; the solid red line shows actual energy use; and the green line shows the change in energy efficiency. The actual energy consumption has only grown by 40 percent since 1970, while the demand has tripled. The distance between the blue and red lines shows the energy that was wasted, and the space between the solid and dashed red lines was the energy actually used.  Energy efficiency has increased, shown by the 50 percent decrease in energy intensity.

“One immediate conclusion from this assessment is that the productivity of our economy may be more directly tied to greater levels of energy efficiency rather than a continued mining and drilling for new energy resources,” wrote Laitner in the report.

For more information on the report, visit Greentech’s article, Report: Efficiency is a More Important Economic Driver than Energy Supply

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