The deployment of existing energy efficiency technologies is the nearest-term and lowest-cost option for moderating our nation’s demand for energy, especially over the next decade. The committee judges that the potential energy savings available from the accelerated deployment of existing energy-efficiency technologies in the buildings, transportation, and industrial sectors could more than offset the Energy Information Administration’s projected increases in U.S. energy consumption through 2030.
The deployment of energy efficiency technologies3—especially of mature technologies in the buildings, transportation, and industrial sectors—is the nearest-term and lowest-cost option for extending domestic supplies of energy. Many energy efficiency savings can be obtained almost immediately by deploying currently available technologies. In contrast, providing new energy supplies typically takes many years. Moreover, energy efficiency has broader societal benefits beyond saving energy. Society is giving more attention to the environment and other externalities as exemplified, for example, by concerns about the impacts of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on global climate change. Laws and regulations, from the Endangered Species Act to the Clean Air Interstate Rule, inevitably slow the development of new energy supplies. In contrast, efficiency involves few emissions, endangers no species, and does not destroy scenic vistas.
To achieve such benefits, however, the efficiency savings must translate into actual reductions in energy consumption. This has been a particular issue in the transportation sector, where efficiency improvements that could have been used to raise vehicle fuel economy were instead offset by higher vehicle power and increased size.
Efficiency savings are realized at the site of energy use—that is, at the residence, store, office, factory, or transportation vehicle. The efficiency supply curves shown later in this chapter demonstrate that many energy efficiency investments cost less than delivered electricity, natural gas, and liquid fuels; in some cases, those costs are substantially less. In the electricity sector, many efficiency investments even cost less than transmission and distribution costs, which are typically
As noted in Chapter 1, the committee draws a sharp distinction between energy efficiency and energy conservation. Conservation can be an important strategy for reducing energy use, but it generally does not involve technology deployment and is therefore not addressed in this report.