Energy-efficiency improvements in the U.S. electric power sector could reduce electric consumption by 7% to 11% more than currently projected over the next two decades if key barriers can be addressed, according to a preliminary analysis of potential energy savings.
The draft findings were presented by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) during a recent Edison Foundation conference, “Keeping the Lights On: Our National Challenge.” The conference examines strategies to meet the growing demand for electricity, which is expected to soar 30% by 2030, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
That demand growth projection would be even higher without the implementation of existing building codes, appliance standards and market-driven consumer incentives, which will shave electricity consumption by 23%, according to the EPRI-EEI study. However, additional efficiency gains could be achieved only by overcoming major market, regulatory and consumer barriers, the analysis found.
“This study demonstrates the potential of energy efficiency to offset some of the projected need for new electric generation as cutting-edge technologies become available and are adopted,” said Dr. Michael Howard, senior vice president at EPRI. “We think a 7% efficiency improvement is realistic — and gains of 11% or more are technologically feasible — depending on the degree to which various obstacles can be overcome.”
Essential steps include increased consumer education; adoption and enforcement of aggressive building codes and appliance standards; creation of utility business models that promote increased efficiency within the power sector; and adoption of electricity pricing policies that more accurately reflect the cost of providing electricity to consumers — and give them the information they need to use it wisely.
Diane Munns, executive director at EEI, said the power sector will seek the greatest efficiency gains possible, but cautioned that this will be no easy task and that utilities still must plan for substantial new generation and transmission to assure reliability. Optimal electricity savings can be achieved only if the best available technologies are deployed throughout the U.S. economy, EPRI and EEI said. Much of the research involved in realizing more efficiency is being conducted by EPRI at its Living Laboratory for Energy Efficiency in Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.