The U.S. Needs Massive Energy Efficiency Gains


The U.S. needs to increase energy efficiency in order to end the American addiction to oil and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Reducing energy consumption by 60 percent by 2050 would add almost two million net jobs in 2050, and save consumers as much as $400 billion a year, equivalent to $2,600 per household, according to a recent study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Considering that the current system of generating and delivering electricity to U.S. homes and businesses is only 31 percent energy efficient, a reduction of that size would be a massive improvement.

What would a massive nationwide investment in energy efficiency look like? Perhaps something like the San Francisco area. The Economist Intelligence Unit and Siemens ranked San Francisco as the most sustainable city in the U.S. last year. San Francisco is in the top ten for every category in the Green City Index for North America, and is ranked number one over all. Part of the reason that San Francisco ranks number one, according to the Green City Index, is because of its partnerships with the private sector on environmental initiatives, including energy efficiency projects.

Let’s look at a few of San Francisco’s public-private partnerships. In 2002, SF Environment helped more than 4,000 business owners reduce their power loads by upgrading older fluorescent and incandescent lighting to newer, more energy efficient fluorescent lighting. Small business owners saved an average of $815 a year.

In 2003 to 2005, the non profit SF Environment partnered with the large California utility, Pacific, Gas & Electric (PG&E) to help shutdown the Hunters Point Power Plant. The power plant was an old and inefficient power plant that serviced more than 1,000 residential customers and 1,800 commercial customers in the San Francisco area. PG&E signed an agreement in 1998 with the City and County of San Francisco to shut down the plant as soon as regulators decided it was no longer needed to supply power. SF Environment’s partnership with PG&E resulted in more than 70 million kilowatt hours saved, and $10 million a year in savings for participating residents and businesses. The power plant closed in 2006, after 75 years in operation.

Massive improvements in energy efficiency “is one of the most economical and effective ways” the U.S. can stop its dependence on foreign oil and reduce its GHG emissions, according to a 2008 American Physical Society (APS) study. It will take the right policies to achieve major gains in energy efficiency, the study states, plus investments in research and development programs that target energy efficiency.

It is indeed a hard sell to some in the U.S. to call for a massive investment in energy efficiency, but the government does not have to foot the entire bill, as San Francisco shows with its public-private partnerships.


Related Stories:

Why Incandescent Light Bulbs Are So 2011

“Greedy Lying Bastards” Exposes Big Oil’s Dirty Secret

New EPA Tool Reveals Biggest GHG Emitters In The US


Photo credit: Flickr user, jamesrbowe


Blackcat Prowl
Blackcat Prowl6 years ago

Marilyn L., I would rather think for myself & make my own decisions. I think the two party system is a failure. Government forced decisions will fail. Changing people's attitudes & minds will be what succeeds. The government can help in certain ways, yet it is people who will in the end make the difference. But yes, I might vote for a Republican if Democrats think they are going to think for me & force my decisions, but in reality I am an Independent & wish to put both parties in the history book. It was both parties that devised this sneaky ban. A Democrat who was married to an electronics magnate & a Republican that owned stock in a large company that was involved with shifting countries~ whole countries~ from incandescent bulbs. I refuse to support corrupt authoritarians who think they know better than I.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

We need both energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Politically, we need to make the transition in a way at least as profitable to too big to fail fossil fuel firms as business as usual is.

Edgar Zuim
Edgar Zuim6 years ago

Not only the U.S.. But the world should be concerned with energy efficiency.

Deanna J.
Deanna J6 years ago

@ Deepali B.

The real habit we need to form is saying NO to inefficient suppliers of electricity. Coal is the dirtiest, most inefficient method of supplying electricity, yet lobbyists have consistently swayed lawmakers to block new, efficient, clean methods of energy production based on the "fact" that "American jobs will be lost" if we were to give coal miners a chance to work in a clean, non-health-endangering environment.

Saving energy on your own is a nice habit, it saves you money, and reduces your own carbon footpring a bit, but it will not save the world from catastrophic climate change. Only a fundamental shift in the methods used to produce our energy can save us. Theoretically, you could leave all the lights on in your house and go out to protest big oil and coal industries, and make much more of a difference.

Marj K.
Marj K6 years ago

Sorry Myron but it's obvious, you've been told how to think and you're buying it hook, line and sinker. Didja ever think to use the internet for something more than email and blogs? There's lots of valid info available, but you need to open your mind first. Free energy is HERE - it hasn't hit the main stream because the 1% won't make money off FREE energy, but that's OK - you just keep buying their bs and their bulbs. Whatever you do, don't drop one! You probably think the gubmint actually CARES about your TV reception too. Haha!

Portland N.
P. L. Neola6 years ago

The bulbs that I use are the ones in the photo. I have been using those bulbs for the last three or four years. The Sunday paper occasionally had and still has discount coupons for a pack of three and/or eight bulbs. They were expensive back then. It was something like between $6 and $8 for a package of three bulbs. Nowadays, they have gone down a little in price, whereas food just keeps going up in price.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

Blackcat P, you'd rather vote for a Republican (tht's pretty much the other choice) than use more efficent lighting?!?! WOW! With thinking like that no wonder we are in the shape we are in.

I converted to CFL and dropped 30% off my electrical bill on by 2200 sq ft home. I am now gradually converting to LED and will save even more. I am proud of my native home San Francisco, they have been doing things to protect the enviornment way before it was popular or thought to be needed.

Myron Scott
Myron Scott6 years ago

Sorry, Marj, but:

Free energy.
Gold buggery.
All kinds of bs
baked in a pie.

Call it Far Right Maringue.

Marj K.
Marj K6 years ago

Most people are missing the BIG point - it's not about which lightbulb to use and it's not about becoming more energy effecient. We should be talking about GETTING OFF ENERGY altogether! We don't need oil or coal or natural gas or, or, or.... All these things do is make more money for the 1%. We HAVE the technology for FREE energy!! Why isn't anyone talking about that? Open your minds - PLEASE!!!!

Myron Scott
Myron Scott6 years ago

Deep, sincere apologies, Michael. I was overly hasty. Everything you said except (my opinion)
the rapist line was spot on. But so is the idea of reducing excessive lighting.

Again, sorry.