Efficiency Standards: Like Free Money, Study Says

Showing there truly is power in numbers, energy efficiency standards put into place over the past 25 years covering some 55 products have combined into some meaningful impact. National efficiency standards for appliances, lighting and other electronics will save consumers and businesses over $1.1 trillion by 2035, according to a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP).

Combining the savings nationwide, the cumulative numbers are quite impressive. By studying the energy savings from when each regulation was put into place, the ACEEE estimates that by 2035 we will have saved over 200 quads. A quad? Oh, that’s short for a quadrillion British thermal units. In 2010, U.S. energy use totaled 98 quads. So saving 200 quads is like saving two years’ worth of energy use, simply by being more efficient.

ACEEE Projected Energy Efficiency Savings

image via ACEEE

That’s a lot of power, and it’s a lot of greenhouse gases not going into the atmosphere. According to the report, “already existing standards reduced U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 200 million metric tons in 2010 and the annual reduction level will grow to 470 million metric tons by 2035, or roughly the output of 120 coal-fired power plants. New and updated standards would reduce 2035 greenhouse gas emissions by another 200 million metric tons, or another 50 coal-fired power plants equivalents.”

We first saw efficiency standards for 13 products put into place under President Ronald Reagan in 1987. Today, standards cover over 55 products with more on the way. While these regulations are not always met with open arms from manufacturers who have to innovate and revise their products, the impacts of energy savings benefit everyone.

As you’d expect, to account for the upgrades, energy efficient products are slightly higher in price, but as this study and many others show, the long-term savings on energy more than make up for the increased cost. By purchasing efficient appliances, the ACEEE estimates, a typical household would save $10,000 between 2010 and 2025 with electricity usage reduced by one-third.

As consumers replace their old energy-guzzling washing machines and refrigerators with more efficient models over the next 20 years, energy savings will dramatically increase. In 2010, existing standards reduced U.S. electricity use by 7 percent. According to ACEEE’s study, by 2035 annual our annual savings will reach 14 percent.

Smart Meter

image via Shutterstock

But the ACEEE does not pause long to give the nation a pat on the back for savings well done. While the standards already in place are making an impact, there is definitely room for improvement. In its report, the ACEEE also presents the potential savings if we implement additional standards by 2015.

For example, California already passed efficiency standards for battery chargers and there is a U.S. Department of Energy ruling expected in 2012 that could go into effect by 2014. The ACEEE presents 34 additional standards like this one that if added into the mix could lower our energy use by another 7 percent in 2035, saving consumers and businesses another $170 billion.

“Improving the energy efficiency of everyday products with common-sense standards has proven to be one of the best ways to save consumers and businesses money while protecting the environment and avoiding the need to build expensive new power plants,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of ASAP, a coalition of consumer, environmental and efficiency groups. “Standards have been a bipartisan energy policy success story stretching across four decades and five presidencies.”

Angeli Duffin is a Midwest transplant currently living in San Francisco, CA. Kicking off her career doing product design and development with Fair Trade artisans around the world, she then moved on to the editorial side, writing for eBay’s Green Team blog and working as a marketing consultant for social and environmentally minded companies

1 Comment

  • Reply March 15, 2012

    Alex Lester

    Well it is not “free” since generally making things more efficient does cost something, and it takes replacements to make a bigger impact.

Leave a Reply