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Efficiency standards save consumers, businesses more than $1.1 trillion

March 7, 2012 - National efficiency standards for appliances, lighting and other equipment will save consumers and businesses more than $1.1 trillion and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas pollution and other emissions by 2035, according to “The Efficiency Boom: Cashing In on Savings from Appliance Standards”, a study released today.


March 8, 2012
By Anthony Capkun

Even greater savings could be achieved, says the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Updates to existing standards and new standards for other products that can be completed between now and 2015 could net consumers and businesses another $170 billion and reduce pollution even further.

The study by ACEEE and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) finds that existing standards will save 200 quads of energy by 2035, with another 42 quads of savings achievable with new standards. (A quad is a unit of energy equal to 1015 btu or about 293,083,000,000 kWh. According to Wikipedia, global primary energy production in 2004 was 446 quad.)

“Improving the energy efficiency of everyday products with common-sense standards has proven to be one of the best ways to save consumers and businesses money while protecting the environment and avoiding the need to build expensive new power plants,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of ASAP, a coalition of consumer, environmental and efficiency groups. “Standards have been a bipartisan energy policy success story stretching across four decades and five presidencies.”

“Our research found that a combination of updates for existing standards and first-time standards for products like computers, TV set-top boxes and streetlights would add to the track record of big energy, economic and environmental benefits achieved by standards,” said Amanda Lowenberger, lead report author and senior research analyst at ACEEE.

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According to the report, existing standards reduced U.S. electricity use by 7% in 2010. Annual electricity savings from existing standards will increase to 14% by 2035 as consumers and businesses purchase new products compliant with the latest standards. New and updated standards that can be completed by 2015 would reduce 2035 electricity use by another 7%.

Direct natural gas savings from existing standards will reach 950 trillion btu by 2035, or enough to heat about one out of every three natural gas-heated homes. New and updated standards for gas products would add another 240 trillion btu in annual gas savings by 2035. New standards would also deliver enormous water savings: more than 430 billion gallons annually by 2035—enough to supply New York City.

“Thereʼs no question standards have made a significant contribution to lowering home utility bills,” said Mel Hall-Crawford, energy projects director for the Consumer Federation of America. “And, there are more savings to be gained through future standards.”

According to the study, a typical household will save about $10,000 between 2010 and 2025 simply by purchasing products compliant with minimum standards. A typical household’s total electric bill over this period would be about 33% higher absent efficiency standards. Although efficient products typically cost more up front, the report found that the cost of more efficient products pays back in lower utility bills within about 3 years, with net benefits outweighing costs by 4 to 1.

“Energy efficiency standards are beneficial on so many levels,” said David Goldstein, co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Councilʼs energy program. “They help our environment, they help drive innovation and—as this report shows—they help consumers save money with every appliance they plug into their wall sockets.”

According to the report, existing standards reduced U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 200 million metric tons in 2010 and the annual reduction level will grow to 470 million metric tons by 2035, or roughly the output of 120 coal-fired power plants. New and updated standards would reduce 2035 greenhouse gas emissions by another 200 million metric tons, or another 50 coal-fired power plants equivalents.

To assess the potential impact of future standards, the report evaluates 34 products for which new or updated standards could be adopted within the next four years. Products with the biggest potential additional energy savings include electric water heaters, reflector light bulbs, distribution transformers, electric motors and computers. The largest net economic savings would come from new clothes washer and outdoor lighting standards.