As part of the National Academies’ America’s Energy Future (AEF) project (see Appendix A), the Panel on Energy Efficiency Technologies (Appendix B) was appointed to assess the potential of technologies to save money as well as energy within the buildings, transportation, and industrial sectors during three time periods: 2009–2020, 2020–2035, and beyond 2035. Box P.1 contains the charge to the panel.
The focus of the panel’s assessment was the potential of technology for improving energy efficiency, which the panel defined as accomplishing a given objective with less energy (see Appendix D for an extended technical definition). Conservation is generally understood to mean saving energy by changing behavior, such as by driving a smaller car or setting back the thermostat in winter. Given its task, the panel did not examine how much energy savings could be achieved by conservation. Instead, the panel identified energy savings that could be achieved through energy efficiency.
In fact, energy efficiency technologies have been available for decades, but unfortunately, few have been implemented. The panel identified myriad barriers to getting these technologies adopted. It noted that if society were to give a higher priority to efficiency, perhaps because of higher energy prices, energy shortages, or concern about greenhouse gas emissions, deployment would be faster and the savings would be greater.
As the panel discovered, energy efficiency occupies a unique place in the energy debate. Energy efficiency requires none of the environmental disruption seen in extracting coal, petroleum, natural gas, or uranium; depends on no wind turbines or hydroelectric dams or thermal power plants; emits no greenhouse