The Size of the U.S. Energy Efficiency Market: Generating a More Complete Picture

Energy Efficiency may be the farthest-reaching, least-polluting, and fastest-growing U.S. energy success story of the last 50 years. It is also the most invisible, the least understood, and in serious danger of missing out on needed future investments.

This report provides a unique assessment of the size and scale of current investments in the U.S. energy efficiency market and reveals the scope of potential benefits that future investments might yield. Ultimately our goal is threefold: (1) to increase the visibility of the contributions that efficiency currently makes to our economy; (2) to illustrate the potential contributions that efficiency can make in terms of energy security, economic productivity, and climate change mitigation; and (3) to recommend specific means of accelerating our transition to a more energy-productive, low-carbon economy.

In 2004, an estimated $300 billion was invested in energy efficiency technologies and infrastructure in the United States and those investments made us more productive, saved us money, and supported 1.6 million jobs. Notably, the estimated investments in efficiency are three times the size of investments made in the conventional energy supply infrastructure but represents less than a third of the nation’s total annual energy expenditures. Moreover, these investments in energy efficiency technologies are estimated to have generated approximately 1.7 quads of energy savings in 2004 alone. These savings are roughly the equivalent of the total energy required by the operation of 40 mid-sized coal-fired power plants. Interestingly, the size of efficiency investments varied considerably across energy end use sectors. Approximately $178 billion or nearly 60% of total energy efficiency investments were made in the buildings sector, while $75 billion worth of investments were made in the industrial sector. The transportation sector received approximately 11% of investments in efficiency or $33 billion.

While these figures indicate that, as a nation, we are clearly making positive strides toward increasing our energy productivity and reducing our carbon footprint, analysis performed for this report also suggests that we have only begun to scratch the surface of the potential savings that additional investments in energy efficiency technologies could provide. Our findings indicate that in an environment of accelerated market transformation and rapid growth in efficiency investments, total investments in more energy efficiency technologies could increase the annual energy efficiency market by nearly $400 billion by 2030, resulting in an annual efficiency market of more than $700 billion in 2030.

Given the right choices and investments in the many cost-effective but underutilized energy efficiency technologies, a variety of studies (by ACEEE and others) suggest that the United States can cost-effectively reduce energy consumption by 25-30% or more over the course of the next 20-25 years.Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez and John A. “Skip” Laitner

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