At present, such systems are too expensive for broad commercial use. But if they can be made affordable, the effect will be dramatic. By one expert estimate, widespread use of LEDs would reduce consumption of electricity for lighting by 50%—a savings of about $10 billion a year in the United States. And it would reduce worldwide demand for electricity by 10%, an amount equivalent to about 125 large generating plants.
Other researchers are exploring ways to make industrial and manufacturing processes much more efficient. Industry accounts for about 32% of all energy consumption in the United States, and seven energy-intensive industries use three-fourths of that power. As a result, public/private-sector partnerships and research programs are focusing on those areas.
One of the prime targets is the chemical industry, which uses 19% of all fuel consumed in the U.S. industrial sector. In particular, processes used to separate chemicals and to enable chemical reactions are being evaluated for possible savings.
A similar effort is under way in analyzing the energy-intensive forest products industry. Researchers have identified enhanced raw materials, next-generation mill processes, improved fiber recycling, and wood processing as candidates for improvements in efficiency.
Nonetheless, improved energy efficiency alone cannot solve all the nation’s energy problems. Multiple parallel efforts will be needed, and that recognition has prompted intense interest in a wide variety of new technologies.