Because of largely invisible and under-appreciated gains in energy efficiency throughout the economy, U.S energy consumption per dollar output is about half today what it was in 1970, according to a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The report might be dismissed as special pleading, but its finding are generally consistent with a major U.S. climate technology report, which found that efficiency improvements and conservation offer by far the best near-term prospects for cutting energy use and greehouse gas emissions, as IEEE Spectrum noted two years ago.
Consistent with the Bush administration's climate task force findings, the ASCEE report says that the United States could reduce its energy consumption by 25-30 percent over the next two or three decades, by aggressively exploiting opportunities for improved efficiency. Taking a close look at the most recent data on investments in energy efficiency, ASCEE determined that buildings accounted for by far the greatest share of new investment in 2004, nearly 60 percent. Transportation was a distant second, at 11 percent.
No wonder the "energy efficiency utility"--the utility that in effect generates "negawatts" (watts saved) by encouraging its customers to use energy more efficiently--has become the latest buzzword in the electric power world.