National efficiency council says U.S. needs federal mandates to improve energy savings

By Laura D’Alessandro

The United States must be more aggressive in embracing meaningful energy efficiency policies and programs, according to an inaugural white paper released July 2 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. 

The council said it plans to produce the paper annually to examine and characterize the overall state of energy efficiency in the United States and assess its progress.

According to 15 indicators the council created to take a snapshot of the nation’s energy efficiency, the United States is becoming more energy efficient, but improvements measured were typically modest, indicating that the economy overall could do better.

Improvement was most greatly measured in state energy efficiency program savings, reductions in energy use in residential buildings, standards for fuel economy, building codes and standards for appliances.

Appliance and equipment performance standards in place in 2012 are expected to save 5 percent more energy than was saved in 2011, the report said. Additionally, the council said, residential buildings in the nation consumed 6 percent less energy than in 2011.

Even so, most of the indicators demonstrated that more work is needed at the national level. Additionally, the council said it sees indications of potential slowing.

While good progress has been made in state-level savings, the council said, the programs might not continue due to small budgets for energy efficiency in 2012. Already, areas such as the combined heat and power industry, the energy intensity of freight transport, use of public transit and mandatory energy efficiency standards are either making no progress or backsliding.

The federal government has not adopted energy efficiency targets or greenhouse gas reductions targets, the report noted. Without these, the council said continued progress will be difficult.

“Due to the fragmented nature of U.S. energy policy, multiple agents throughout any sector may be responsible for a change in efficiency,” the council said in the white paper. “Factors that aren’t necessarily controlled by policymakers, such as market prices and technological advances, also play a significant role in how quickly energy efficiency is improved.”

The council noted that some bills pending in Congress could position the United States as a better global competitor and significantly increase its energy savings.

To read the full report, visit the ACEEE’s website at aceee.org or click here.