A new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that energy efficiency could cut US energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050. The report authors identify what they say are ambitious but cost-effective and technically possible measures.
The report by authors Steven Nadel and Lowell Ungar, Halfway There: Energy Efficiency Can Cut Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Half by 2050, builds on previous studies including ones from the International Energy Agency and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Energy efficiency is an urgently needed climate solution,” says Steven Nadel, the report’s co-author and ACEEE executive director. “It can deliver swift, robust emissions cuts.”
He and his co-author identified 11 opportunities and related policies to achieve energy savings. According to their report, these opportunities include:
- Transportation: A significant shift to electric cars and trucks and continued fuel economy gains under new standards could approximately halve vehicle carbon emissions. Also reducing emissions: less driving in cars and light trucks, improved freight system efficiency, and more-efficient airplanes.
- Buildings: New homes and commercial buildings could cut their emissions by 70% with efficient design and use of cleaner electricity. Existing homes and buildings slash emissions with energy-efficient upgrades, smart control technologies, and electrification of heating and cooling. Adding to total emissions cuts are updated efficiency standards for appliances and equipment and growth in the Energy Star program.
- Industry: The industrial sector could deliver hefty emissions cuts with strategic energy management, smart manufacturing, industrial process improvements (including electrification strategies), changes in feedstocks, and new process technologies and materials.
Lowel Ungar, report co-author and an ACEEE senior policy advisor, said that the good news is that it’s possible to start investing in more energy-efficient appliances, buildings, vehicles, and industrial plants right now.
“But to achieve maximum emissions reductions, we need political and financial investments that go far beyond business as usual,” he added. “If we do so, the 2050 payoff will be impressive.”
Vignesh Gowrishankar, the co-author of a related NRDC report, called energy efficiency among the least expensive and most effective ways to reduce much of the country’s emissions. “It also improves the cost and effectiveness of other critical solutions such as renewables, electric vehicles, and electric heat pumps,” he said.