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Energy efficiency is the most important climate solution for several reasons:

  1. It is by far the biggest resource.
  2. It is by far the cheapest, far cheaper than the current cost of unsustainable energy, so cheap that it helps pay for the other solutions.
  3. It is by far the fastest to deploy.
  4. It is “renewable” — the efficiency potential never runs out.

This post focuses on number one — the tremendous size of the resource.

Of the 14 or so wedges we need to deploy globally by 2050, I have argued that about two are electricity efficiency, one is recycled energy (cogeneration), and one is vehicle fuel efficiency (cars globally averaging 60 mpg). The International Energy Agency also thinks about four wedges are efficiency. And so does Price Waterhouse Coopers.

(I would also add that since plug-in hybrids are another core solution — and since the electric motor is inherently more efficient than the gasoline engine — you could also consider part of the plug-in wedge to be an efficiency gain.)

I have already written about recycled energy and high-efficiency plug-in hybrids, so what I will focus on over the next several days is end-use electricity efficiency.

How big is the efficiency potential in this country? The global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates that nearly 40 percent of the U.S. emissions reduction potential by 2030 is from energy efficiency.

In the past three decades, electricity per capita has stayed flat in Californian while it has risen 60 percent in the rest of the country. If all Americans had the same per capita electricity demand as Californians, we would cut electricity consumption 40 percent. And if all of America adopted the same energy efficiency policies that California is now putting in place, the country would never have to build another power plant.

Energy efficiency is the core climate solution.

This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.