Sandra Stewart | January 20, 2016
Why don’t energy efficiency technologies and strategies get people as excited as a Tesla roadster? On the face of it, duh. It’s the brains of it that make this a headscratcher.
An American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranked the U.S. among the least energy efficient of the world’s largest economies—13th out of 16—in its most recent international scorecard. (Get the details in Climate Central’s summary.) That’s too bad, because “energy efficiency investments can provide up to one-half of the needed greenhouse gas emissions reductions most scientists say are needed between now and the year 2050,” according to earlier ACEEE research. The research, based on economic data and the historical record, also found that “investments in more energy-productive technologies can also lead to a substantial net energy bill savings for the consumer and for the nation’s businesses.”
In other words, energy efficiency is probably the single most effective greenhouse gas reduction strategy we have—and it saves you money. What’s not to get excited about?
The granny panties of the green economy
Unfortunately, energy efficiency just isn’t sexy. Climate pundits have been lamenting this for some time: energy efficiency is the granny panties of the green economy. Many see the solution in language and are lobbying for a new term, something less evocative of slide rules and more inspirational. I’m all for optimal naming, but we need to look at the total package.
Energy efficiency faces two obstacles more serious than its nerdy name: invisibility and implausibility. The beauty and the downfall of many energy efficiency measures is that they work in the background, without anyone being aware that they’re happening. And the potential savings from these measures often inspire skepticism more than any other reaction—people think that if a solution like that really were effective, it would already be standard practice.