December 10, 2009
Efficiency Could Halt US Electric Demand Growth

The United States could avoid electric power demand growth for 20 years by implementing more technologies that boost energy efficiency.

WASHINGTON -- Energy efficiency technologies that exist today or that are likely to be developed in the near future could save considerable money as well as energy, says a new report from the National Research Council. Fully adopting these technologies could lower projected U.S. energy use 17 percent to 20 percent by 2020, and 25 percent to 31 percent by 2030.

Waste not, want not.

Buildings are where most energy usage happens, not cars, trucks, and airplanes. Update: Oops, that's electric power consumption they are referring to.

Achieving full deployment of these efficiency technologies will depend in part on pressures driving adoption, such as high energy prices or public policies designed to increase energy efficiency. Nearly 70 percent of electricity consumption in the United States occurs in buildings. The energy savings from attaining full deployment of cost-effective, energy-efficient technologies in buildings alone could eliminate the need to add new electricity generation capacity through 2030, the report says. New power generation facilities would be needed only to address imbalances in regional energy supplies, replace obsolete facilities, or to introduce more environmentally friendly sources of electricity.

Think about energy efficiency when upgrading home equipment.

Many cost-effective efficiency investments in buildings are possible, the report says. For example, replacing appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators, freezers, furnaces, and hot water heaters with more efficient models could reduce energy use by 30 percent. Opportunities for achieving substantial energy savings exist in the industrial and transportation sectors as well. For example, deployment of industrial energy efficiency technologies could reduce energy use in manufacturing 14 percent to 22 percent by 2020, relative to expected trends. Most of these savings would occur in the most energy-intensive industries, such as chemical manufacturing, petroleum refining, pulp and paper, iron and steel, and cement.

Update: Turns out that electric power uses more energy than transportation (and very little transportation energy gets used as electric power). So cutting back electric power consumption really would have a big impact on total energy consumption. However, from the standpoint of which forms of energy we most need to shift away from more efficient usage of electric power doesn't buy us so much. Liquid fuels are the most expensive forms of energy and they are not used much to generate electric power. The biggest usage of liquid fuels is in transportation.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 December 10 10:59 PM  Energy Conservation

Fat Man said at December 11, 2009 2:32 AM:

I call Jevon's paradox on them.

LarryD said at December 11, 2009 8:32 AM:

The rate of deployment is constrained by the slow turn-over in industrial facilities, which have service lives measured in multi decades.

All of the newer appliances are more efficient, have been for years, but we're still talking service lives of 5 years and up. And replacement of older inefficient models with more efficient models has been going on for well over a decade. This has been happening and is no silver bullet, we still need more generating capacity, just not as much as we would have.

I call bogus.

random said at December 11, 2009 10:56 AM:

Interesting, I hadn't heard of Jevon's Paradox before. To defeat the paradox, the price for energy sources would have to be increased somehow.

Given that new taxes on energy are politically impossible, it seems like the only way to increase prices would be to devalue the dollar while maintaining stagnant wage growth....

Rob said at December 11, 2009 11:22 AM:

This is old news, companies have been doing this for years. Here's a press release where the Michaels people claim to have cut their energy use by more than 25% by deploying an energy management system in their stores:

This is well-understood technology. You control lights, HVACs, etc carefully and you save energy. Using remote monitoring, you can discover broken equipment quickly, before it wastes energy while not doing its job. By monitoring your actual usage remotely, you have earlier detection of problem sites and advance notice of trends in your energy bills down the road. There are several companies doing this.

Unfortunately, there's no easy way for politicians to exploit such an approach, so it gets no attention in the larger scheme of climate change and all of that.

Nick G said at December 11, 2009 12:11 PM:

Jevon's paradox mostly applies where energy is expensive, and there's substantial unmet demand.

Industrial/commercial consumers (and residential, for that matter) mostly use just as much energy as they want to. If they get more efficient, and therefore the effective price of power is less, they won't use much more.

If they do use more, research tells us it will only be a % of the savings - say, 30%.

Rob said at December 11, 2009 12:29 PM:

It's also interesting to note that some companies - ones who operate high-end, profitable sites - have little concern over energy usage. I know of a restaurant chain where they simply have no concern for energy usage: they open up a whole side of one of their sites to the outdoors and run the A/C like hell. They charge a lot for food and energy just isn't a big enough component of their total cost for them to care. With these types of businesses, you would first have to convince them that energy usage is important. So important, in fact, that they should take hits to their brand image to use less. You would probably need to use public awareness campaigns to call attention to wastefulness, so that the waste becomes the hit to the brand, not the slightly lowered ambiance of eating outdoors comfortably.

Rob said at December 11, 2009 12:48 PM:

Oh, and I forgot to add: it's cheap to install an EMS. The ROI is 12-24 months (in saved energy costs, not even counting more efficient maintenance) and many utilities will give you a rebate for installing an EMS that will offset some of the cost. These days, an investment that returns its capital in less than two years and generates a profit thereafter is a no-brainer (assuming you have capital in the first place).

Fat Man said at December 11, 2009 3:33 PM:

random: Isn't that what they are doing?

Ron said at December 11, 2009 3:36 PM:

Efficiency is a magic word used by those who want to stifle new energy production. Such people have little knowledge of industry or of industry's needs. These incompetents have been in control of California for decades now, and California has never been closer to the brink of destruction.

If you want the US to become like California in terms of financial disaster, do nothing. The right people are in the right places to achieve exactly that.

Bruce said at December 11, 2009 6:17 PM:

Oceans of Natrual gas is available for generating electricity. Coal for 1000 years. Nuclear for millions.

Whats really needed is a program to run cars on NG instead of imported oil.

Of course the Democratics would just squander every penny and spend it on "green" projects.

Wolf-Dog said at December 11, 2009 8:56 PM:

The chances are very high that electric cars will become economically viable.

One of the main fears was that there might be a lithium shortage limiting the growth of electric cars, but here is a very encouraging article that there is plenty of lithium in the world, and that because lithium can easily be recycled (from the batteries of electric cars), once you buy an electric car with a lithium based battery, that precious metal can be re-used in the next battery you buy, meaning that lithium is not going to be a depleted resource like oil, which is lost forever once you burn it. This is very good news, since tremendous progress is being made in Lithium based batteries. Already there are pure electric cars with 100 mile range, and this range will soon be increased to more than 300 miles per charge.

Wolf-Dog said at December 11, 2009 9:01 PM:

" Of course the Democratics would just squander every penny and spend it on "green" projects. "

One reason both the Democrats and the Republicans would delay the development of electric cars is because they are worried that if we switch to pure electric cars, this would eliminate a lot of jobs from the already entrenched oil industry (refineries, domestic drilling, various services).

anonyq said at December 12, 2009 6:06 AM:

Great argument if there where many jobs in the oil industry, but in truth the oil industry has very few jobs per dollar spend.

Bruce said at December 12, 2009 8:24 AM:

There is ONE company that recycles lithium batteries. And it catches fire every once in a while ...

I love the name.

"There is currently little economic need to recycle lithium-ion batteries. Most batteries contain only small amounts of lithium carbonate as a percentage of weight and the material is relatively inexpensive compared to most other metals.

But experts say that having a recycling infrastructure in place will ease concerns that the adoption of vehicles that use lithium-ion batteries could lead to a shortage of lithium carbonate and a dependence on countries such as China, Russia, and Bolivia, which control the bulk of global lithium reserves.

Great. Trade dependency on the middle east to Russia, China and Bolivia.

Smart ....

Wolf-Dog said at December 12, 2009 10:11 AM:

Here is the latest Tesla Model S car, which is a 4 door sedan:

This car has a range of 160 miles for the smaller battery. But a more expensive larger battery yields a range of 300 miles.

Despite the high price of the car, the fact that the battery is already available means that within 10 years it is almost guaranteed that one will be able to buy a modest electric car with 300 mile range, for less than $15,000.

Thus what we need is to start building a national infrastructure to put charging pods in every street. According to the cost of building this infrastructure to put charging pods in every street, will cost only 1 year of imported oil. In addition, BetterPlace also demonstrated its robotic batters swapping stations similar to gas stations, which exchange batteries within a couple of minutes..

Wolf-Dog said at December 12, 2009 10:22 AM:

Here is a video of the Tesla Model S sedan:

It will be manufactured in Californistan. Given the high unemployment levels there, I we can't expect the labor costs to be a problem.

Fat Man said at December 12, 2009 1:35 PM:

I got a portrait of Ben Franklin that says electric cars will never be more than 10% of total vehicle sales unless there is a law requiring it.

Bruce said at December 12, 2009 1:44 PM:

"within 10 years it is almost guaranteed that one will be able to buy a modest electric car with 300 mile range, for less than $15,000"

Without batteries ...

"He says that the laboriously hand-assembled lithium-ion battery pack in the Tesla Roadster would cost about $36,000 to replace today"

Wolf-Dog said at December 12, 2009 3:18 PM:

I said that the batteries will become cheap in 10 years, not now. These batteries are still at the level of infancy, compared to what will happen by 2020.

LarryD said at December 12, 2009 9:18 PM:

There are new sources of lithium available, too.

In addition to geothermal wells, the Salton Sea is itself more saline than the oceans, this is a probllem for the fish and birds in the area. A possible solution would be to "mine" the Salton Sea with a desalinization plant, and recover useful minerals (salt, lithium, etc) from the waste brine. The primary purpose woud be to control the saline level of the Salton Sea, so mineral recovery need not be economic in itself, as long as it helps defray the operating expenses.

Bruce said at December 13, 2009 8:39 AM:

Wild-Dog, you didn't read the story.

"Tesla apparently is betting that automated battery production techniques will have improved, and raw material costs fallen, to the point that it can provide you a replacement pack then for $12K now and at least break even" 7 years from now.

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright