Energy Efficiency Policies Could Save the U.S. Economy Almost $1 Trillion

Old ACEEE Report Outlines 16 Policies to Remove Market Barriers to Energy Efficiency and Leverage Market Forces Aka Still Relevant Today!!

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a Report highlighting 16 policies that remove market barriers across the economy to investments in energy efficiency.

The report, Overcoming Market Barriers and Using Market Forces to Advance Energy Efficiency , provides Congress and state policymakers with a road map to address national energy consumption through policies that could save the country approximately $1 trillion in energy bills and 19 quads in energy consumption.

The United States has made much progress in energy efficiency in the last few decades but there are still large, cost-effective opportunities available to advance efficiency even further, while improving the economy at the same time. However, a variety of market failures and market barriers contribute to keeping us from fully realizing our energy efficiency potential.

“Eliminating barriers that keep us from reducing waste is an approach both sides of the aisle can support,” said ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel. “By removing these barriers, Congress and state policymakers have an opportunity to let smart investments help strengthen the economy while saving the nation billions.”

The report discusses several targeted policies that leverage market mechanisms and address specific market failures to energy efficiency, without requiring substantial spending or government mandates. For example, the development of a comprehensive building labeling and benchmarking program could save approximately 1.6 quads of energy and $60 billion between 2014 and 2030. Even more impressive are the benefits gained from adjusting corporate tax legislation to encourage the replacement of inefficient equipment and from removing regulatory barriers to combined heat and power (CHP) projects. These two policies alone could reduce national energy consumption by 7 quads and save the economy close to $300 billion.

“We want to show policymakers that there are a number of cost-effective policies out there that could promote energy efficiency and kick start the economy at the same time. This report highlights a number of inventive approaches that we haven’t made much use of to date,” said lead author and ACEEE Senior Research Analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan.

The report includes policy interventions targeted at residential and commercial buildings, the industrial sector, and the transportation sector, as well as a number of policies with economy-wide benefits. For each measure, the report provides a brief description of the policy, its legislative history, general estimates of associated costs and benefits, and recommendations about future policy design.

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Progress on commercial building energy efficiency has been good, but more attention needed to decrease waste in several areas

by Steven Nadel, Executive Director

Data recently released as part of the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) highlights changes in commercial sector energy demand between 2003 and 2012. The Energy Information Administration conducts CBECS approximately every five years, and examines in depth a nationally representative sample of thousands of commercial buildings.  Overall, energy use per square foot of floor area is down by 12%. Great strides have been made in reducing energy use for lighting and space heating. Regarding space heating, the reduction is due to both greater use of energy-saving technologies and practices, as well as higher growth in building floor area in the south, which accounted for 39% of commercial building floor area in 2012, up from 37% in 2003.

But it is also notable that some building energy end-uses have gone up over the past decade. Energy use for computers, office equipment, and “other” uses is up (see the figure below which highlights changes in energy use since 2003 by end-use). Use for cooking and refrigeration is also up, mirroring growth in the food service and food store sectors. We’re eating out more, and buying more prepared and refrigerated foods—data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that food store employment is up 12.7% over the past decade, more than double the growth in all employment. And cooling and ventilation energy use are also up, although the growth in cooling is very modest given the fact that CBECS found that 45% of all commercial new construction since 2003 has been in the south where cooling needs are particularly high… 

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Celebrating 40 years of saving energy and training students in industrial efficiency

by Meegan Kelly, Senior Research Analyst, Industry Program

Industry has been important to the American economy since the earliest days of our country and the strength of the manufacturing sector is a priority for the US government and members of Congress. In a Senate briefing last week, staff on Capitol Hill attended a presentation celebrating the success of the Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC) program, a little-known and long-standing initiative funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) that helps small manufacturers save energy while training the next generation of energy efficiency engineers.

In a Senate briefing last week, staff on Capitol Hill attended a presentation celebrating the success of the Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC) program, a little-known and long-standing initiative funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) that helps small manufacturers save energy while training the next generation of energy efficiency engineers.

As part of the IAC program’s 40th anniversary, hill staffers from more than 10 Congressional offices convened for a briefing organized by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to learn about the program’s achievements. Since the program was founded in 1976, teams of students at 24 of the top US engineering schools have conducted more than 17,000 free energy assessments, and helped small and medium-size manufacturers save more than $1 billion in energy costs and enough energy to power over 1.4 million homes. To emphasize these successes, Senator Shaheen and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) submitted a formal recognition resolution commending the value the IAC program has brought to both manufacturers and engineering students…

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Source: ACEEE: The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, visit

Energy-saving devices work – if you use them correctly

A well-insulated home with a high-efficiency air conditioner and programmable thermostat are only as effective as the person using it.

A new study led by Michigan State University and published in the current issue of Procedia Engineering shows that people living in green dwellings who don’t maximize their technology can lose half of the energy savings available to them.


“Technological advances in building and equipment account for only 43 percent of energy consumption,” said Dong Zhao, assistant professor in MSU’s School of Planning, Design and Construction. “That means that you could buy the greenest house on the market, yet your personal habits could waste more than 50 percent of your energy savings.”

As summer heats up and air conditioners kick on, this could be a concern for individual homeowners as well as commercial property owners managing business and residential occupants.

Residential buildings account for a significant proportion of energy consumption, comprising 21 percent of the total national energy use and emitting more than one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.


Zhao and his team of researchers collected data from 320 certified green residential units. They surveyed preferred temperature settings in summer and winter, how often windows were kept open, use of fans and space heaters, humidity settings, length of showers, dishwasher and washer and dryer use, and residents’ knowledge of building systems.


“If an air conditioner achieves its highest efficiency at 72 degrees, but the resident likes it set at 68 degrees, there will be a lost value of energy savings,” Zhao said.

There’s hope, though, for people who want to maximize the full potential of their green building technologies. The study suggests that building scientists and mechanical engineers should consider residents’ behaviors while designing technology to reach maximum efficiency.


The study also shows that education could have the biggest impact on improving energy efficiency. In California, for example, utility rates vary throughout the day. So what time you charge your electric car or run your dryer can affect the savings recouped from committing to a green lifestyle, Zhao said.


“Incorporating an orientation for apartment dwellers on all of the energy savings available to them would benefit the residents and the property managers,” he said. “The education component is the key to achieving higher levels of energy and financial savings. The next phase of our research will focus on what types of education work best and how educators can effectively deliver the information to residents.”


License Attribution Some rights reserved by ell brown

Researchers from Virginia Tech University and Texas A&M University also contributed to this study.

Source: Michigan State University .
June 8, 2016, EAST LANSING, Mich.

Green Roofs Improve Energy Efficiency and Livability

Installing a green roof offers property owners a fantastic opportunity to decrease their energy costs while also increasing environmental efficiency. While converting to a green roof isn’t precisely inexpensive, this improvement could easily pay for itself in just a few years. Plus, studies have shown that green roofs help people breathe easier by reducing air pollutants as well as provide a community gathering place. Understanding these benefits of having a green roof may just convince you to replace your traditional roof with something newer and more innovative.


Image via: Rooflines

Green roofs are particularly popular in urban places where high-rise buildings dominate the skyline. However, they are also increasingly showing up in residential neighborhoods as more people understand the value of a green roof. Unlike a traditional roof that merely provides protection from the elements, a green roof transforms this previously unusable space into something that improves the energy efficiency of the structure while also providing social, emotional and physical benefits.

Green roofs can be manufactured in a variety of designs. Some have insulation while others do not. Some are used to grow herbs for a restaurant in the building. Additional green roofs may become a gathering place for colleagues, a place to enjoy blooming flowers or an opportunity to start a vegetable garden. The fact is that green roofs can be employed for a multitude of purposes. This makes them versatile enough to suit almost any property owner’s needs.

If it is understood that green roofs are relatively more expensive than a traditional roof, why are so many architects including them in their plans? It’s because of the tremendous benefits that having a green roof can bring to the building’s occupants as well as the general population.

Image via Flicker – phototouring

Green roofs improve air quality thanks to the natural ability of plants to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce more oxygen. Many pollutants and toxins that are commonly found in cities are also absorbed by the plants or the material in which they are planted, which means that these pollutants are less likely to enter the stormwater system.

Green roofs have also been shown to reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect, or UHI. That’s because the plants absorb UV radiation and the attendant heat instead of merely reflecting it. Additionally, these roofs have demonstrated an ability to capture particulate matter and dust to prevent them from being distributed, which leads to a reduction of smog levels.

Green roofs are further an improvement over traditional roofs thanks to their ability to make buildings more energy efficient. The plants create natural insulation which means that there is less need to rely on heating and cooling systems to moderate interior temperatures. When it comes to cooling, green roofs also help because natural plant and soil processes reduce the level of solar energy that is absorbed by the roof’s membrane. Accordingly, the structure’s air conditioning system doesn’t have to work as hard.

Even when the weather turns cold, green roofs still prove their usefulness by creating heat. This heat comes from root activity and the extra layers of material that make up the actual roof. However, this effect is only really noticeable when the green roof isn’t retaining too much water. It’s important to design these roofs carefully so that excess water is more productively washed away.

More people are starting to get on the green roof bandwagon. That’s why it’s not unusual to see tenants being lured to a new space because a particular building has a green roof. In fact, studies have shown that buildings with green roofs tend to have better tenant retention. Additionally, companies that are located in buildings with green roofs are usually more successful at holding on to employees. This effect is the result of growing environmental consciousness. Couple that with the opportunity to spend lunches and breaks in a beautiful garden setting, and it becomes easy to see why so many people are drawn to green roofs.

Green roofs improve the lives of a building’s occupants. With their ability to increase energy efficiency, reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect and clean up air pollution, it’s no surprise that more architects are including green roofs in their designs.