The US can achieve half its climate goals through energy efficiency


Energy efficiency can slash US energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 as well as get the country to achieve half of its climate change goals, according to a new report issued by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The report, Halfway There: Energy Efficiency Can Cut Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Half by 2050, identifies eleven opportunities and related policies to expand energy efficiency savings.

The recommendations included in the report, if implemented, would avert emissions of nearly 2,500 million metric tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide — equivalent to all emissions from cars, trucks, homes, and commercial buildings in 2050.

For instance:

  1. Transportation, which will see a transition to electric vehicles, would deliver 46% of the emissions reductions while buildings would deliver a third and industry a fifth.
  2. For energy savings, buildings would deliver 40% of the total, followed by transportation (32%) and industry (27%).
  3. Government policies and programmes alone would deliver about $700 billion a year in energy savings by 2050

The report calls for scaling up energy efficiency measures, including:

  • Rapid upgrades to vehicle standards, building energy codes, equipment efficiency standards, ENERGY STAR specifications, and state energy-savings targets.
  • Substantial improvements to existing factories, homes, commercial buildings, and the electric grid and better management of energy use in all of them, spurred by government investment and requirements.
  • More travel options and better management of freight and aviation energy use, including through user fees.
  • A switch to electric vehicles, equipment, and industrial processes (along with a more efficient and cleaner power sector).
  • Greater investment in research and development for new efficiency options in every sector, especially improved industrial processes.

 “Energy efficiency is an urgently needed climate solution,” says ACEEE executive director Steven Nadel, a report co-author. “It can deliver swift, robust emissions cuts. We cannot wait to take action. We already see the effects of intensifying climate change and the resulting increase in extreme weather events — from respiratory and other health problems to flooding, drought, heatwaves, and wildfires.”

Kathleen Gaffney, a co-author of the IEA’s Energy Efficiency 2018 report, adds:  “Energy efficiency is indispensable to climate change mitigation.

“It’s already made an immense difference. Without efficiency measures implemented since 2000, global emissions in 2017 would have been 12% higher.”

Lowell Ungar, ACEEE senior policy advisor and report co-author, reiterates: “The good news is that we can start right now by investing more in energy-efficient appliances, buildings, vehicles, and industrial plants,” says “But to achieve maximum emissions reductions, we need political and financial investments that go far beyond business as usual. If we do so, the 2050 payoff will be impressive.”

The report is available for download here