Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Enormous Scale of All the Energy that We Never Used

US growth trends in electricity usage (TWh) vs gross domestic product (GDP) (Credit: ACEEE) Click to Enlarge.
Energy efficiency takes a huge number of forms, ranging from weatherizing a house to upping the fuel efficiency of vehicles.  A new report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a prominent nonprofit that both researches and promotes energy efficiency, makes the case that it has truly been transformative, and in a way that is quantifiable, over the past several decades.

Take, for instance, economic growth:  Since 1980, the report finds, GDP in this country has grown 149 percent.  And it has long been assumed that energy use, and economic productivity, increase in tandem.  But the report finds that only went from using 78 to 98 quads (short for a quadrillion BTUs, or British thermal units) of energy annually between 1980 and 2014.  The percentage increase — 26 percent — is vastly smaller.

The report calculates that after adjusting for other factors, such as structural changes in the economy as it moved from manufacturing towards more dependence on services, we are basically seeing 58 quads of annual energy savings attributable to more efficiency — an enormous amount.

Relatedly, the research also asserts that since about the year 1995, we have seen what is sometimes called a “decoupling” between the growth of GDP and that of electricity usage in the country:

Read more at The Enormous Scale of All the Energy that We Never Used

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