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Factoid #11 -- Energy Use in Buildings Can be Cut by 14 Percent by 2020 Through Short-term Efficiency Policies


In July 2005, the Alliance to Save Energy released a 77-page study entitled "Building on Success: Policies to Reduce Energy Waste in Buildings."

The study notes that current energy use in buildings represents 39 percent of all energy use in the U.S. -- more than industrial or even transportation usage. It concludes that by 2020 building energy use can be reduced by 14 percent and total national energy use could be cut by 5.6 percent through the implementation of short-term, realistic energy policies.

The study examined state and federal policies that have reduced energy use in buildings by 10 percent over the past 20 years and recommended more than 40 new policies or changes in policies that will continue the reductions in energy use, air emissions, and America’s energy bills for years to come.

It argues that current building energy codes, appliance standards, and labeling and information programs have been cornerstones of national and state energy policies, and it recommends not only expanding and improving existing programs, but also adding news ones so the country can continue reaping the energy, environmental, and financial benefits.

The report notes that many existing energy-efficiency policies for buildings have not been fully deployed – for example, a dozen states still have no building energy codes, and many more have codes that are outdated. Similarly, there are not yet minimum energy-efficiency standards for many energy-using products, and many existing standards are obsolete. In addition, a number of factors reduce the effectiveness of current buildings policies. For example, while many states have adopted building energy codes, compliance with such codes is often uneven and/or not enforced, while legislative directives for the U.S. Department of Energy to establish equipment and appliance standards have gone unanswered.

Beyond making current policies more effective, the report also recommends new policies that would further reduce buildings’ energy use. For example, tax incentives encourage the purchase of technologies that have not yet gained full market acceptance. Electric and natural gas utilities can be required to meet a portion of their customers’ energy needs through energy-efficiency improvements, rather than simply by building new power plants.

The report also concludes that the nation could realize further advances in energy-efficiency technologies by strengthening the research and deployment infrastructure of the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and the national laboratories.

Implementing long term tax incentives, codes and standards programs, utility energy efficiency programs, Federal Energy Management practices and robust research, demonstration and development could save 46.4 quads of energy and over $56 Billion in consumer energy bills annually in the year 2020. The amount would build year over year until that point.

Due to the high share of natural gas and electricity use in the building sector, percentage reductions in consumption of these energy resources could be even greater. The report's policy recommendations could reduce total projected electric generating capacity and natural gas consumption (including gas consumed for electricity consumed in buildings) by well over 10 percent per year. This will eliminate the need for approximately 320 average-sized (400 MW) power plants, representing most of the projected net generation capacity additions.

Carbon dioxide and other air pollutants could be reduced by roughly proportionate amounts, avoiding 455 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

The impacts on petroleum consumption would be relatively small, since oil use in buildings is a small portion of total petroleum use; most oil is consumed in the transportation and industries sectors. Still the building policies recommended in this report would displace enough petroleum by 2020 to take the equivalent of 2.7 million cars off the road.

Enhanced Research, Development and Demonstration could fast track these savings. For example, robust funding in the Residential Buildings Research area will lead to houses that are 50 percent more efficient than current code by the year 2010 and zero energy homes by the year 2020. As residential buildings account for 21 percent of total nationwide energy use, these types of reductions can have a major impact on the nation's overall energy use profile.

The full text of the report can be found at: