What is energy efficiency?
Energy efficiency is simply the ability to do more work with less power. More specifically, it refers to technological improvements that maximize the efficient generation, transmission, storage and/or use of energy. For example, some well known improvements in energy efficiency include compact fluorescent light bulbs, gas-electric hybrid automobiles, and combined heat and power or cogeneration systems. Efficiency can also be viewed more broadly to include approaches such as increased public transportation, distributed electricity generation to reduce transmission losses, and community planning to reduce driving or prevent urban “heat islands” that increase cooling demand.
What are the benefits of energy efficiency?
- Cost Savings and Competitiveness: Efficiency improvements save consumers money and improve business competitiveness. Designing and improving factories, cars, homes and transportation systems to maximize energy efficiency reduces future energy bills and makes businesses more competitive. Repeated studies show that energy efficiency improvements produce high returns on investment and short payback periods when compared with other home and business improvement opportunities.
- Strengthening Local Communities: Energy efficiency improvements are investments in local infrastructure, existing businesses, and American ingenuity. This distributed approach can strengthen American communities by creating local jobs, making existing businesses more competitive, and keeping capital in the local economy. By reducing the demand on existing transportation and energy transmission infrastructure, it frees local governments to invest more in schools, health care, and public safety.
- Reducing Foreign Energy Imports: Improved efficiency lowers demand for energy. Reduced demand has many ancillary benefits beyond lower energy bills, including increased energy independence, insulation from energy price fluctuations, and reduced strain on our military for protecting the energy supply chain.
- Healthier Environment: Reducing demand for energy also reduces the carbon monoxide, particulate, and toxic pollution emissions that come from producing energy. Eliminating the demand for electricity from a coal-fired power plant also eliminates a potential source of sulfur emissions – a major component of acid rain.
- Climate Mitigation: Lowering energy demand reduces the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
How can I improve the energy efficiency of my home or business?
There are more ways to improve efficiency than can be suitably discussed here. For home and personal energy use, it can be helpful to analyze your utility bills, research local utility and government efficiency programs and incentives, and explore the many efficiency resources and publications available through your local library or from energy efficiency organizations such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Businesses and industrial facilities can also consult similar resources, or may have more specialized needs and should consult their energy provider, government energy agencies, experienced energy managers, or industrial design experts.
Can energy efficiency meet the energy needs of a growing economy? Won’t more production be necessary?
Energy efficiency is an important component of the larger solution to America’s energy future. The vast opportunities for efficiency improvements can make the nation more prosperous, more secure, and reduce the strain on our energy infrastructure. Combined with other energy technologies, energy efficiency measures can ensure that America’s energy needs are met and its economy will continue to grow and prosper in a sustainable way.