ASAP/ACEEE: Efficiency standards under next U.S. president could save $65 billion/year

by Brianna Crandall — August 24, 2016 — In the wake of a historic number of energy efficiency standards completed during the Obama Administration, the next occupant of the White House could preside over updates to existing U.S. appliance, equipment, and lighting efficiency standards that by 2050 would cut climate emissions by the annual equivalent of 60 coal-fired power plants and lower consumer utility bills by $65 billion a year, according to a new study by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

To date, the Obama Administration has completed a total of 45 appliance, equipment, and lighting efficiency standards, more than all other U.S. presidents combined since the bipartisan enactment of the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987. That national appliance standards law requires the Department of Energy (DOE) to review each standard at least once every six years to determine if an update is warranted and, if so, to complete that update within the ensuing two years.

Based on estimates for 45 of the roughly 55 products currently included in the national standards program, the ASAP and ACEEE analysis looks at what could happen in the next eight years, assuming future standard updates will be based on currently existing technology and completed and take effect on the latest date allowable under the law.  Appliance standards fell behind schedule for a time in the 1990s and 2000s, which is one reason why the focus and resolve of the next administration is so important, note ASAP and ACEEE.

The study concludes that “efficiency standards updated within the next eight years have the potential to reap very large energy and consumer bill savings. The next administration could achieve cumulative nationwide savings of 70 quadrillion Btus (quads) of energy and 3.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2050 while cutting consumer and business utility bills by $1.1 trillion.

“Even greater savings may be achieved by investing in improved test procedures, systematically assessing opportunities for expanding the scope of national standards, improving analysis techniques and data sources, assessing opportunities for standards to contribute to systems-level savings, and taking connectedness into account.”

On an annual basis, that works out to 335 billion kilowatt hours in electricity savings, 200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution cuts, and $65 billion in lower utility bills in 2050, say the researchers.  Additionally, 850 billion gallons of water — roughly equal to what Texas households use in a year — would be saved. Andrew deLaski, executive director of ASAP, noted that these “truly enormous savings” are even larger than the groups expected to find.

Other key report findings include the following:

  • Potential annual energy savings in 2035 equal the current annual energy consumption of all the homes in Texas and Ohio combined. Potential savings in 2050 grow to cover current consumption of homes in those states plus New York and South Carolina.
  • Just 10 products account for more than 70 percent of cumulative energy and utility bill savings potential. The most impactful potential standards are for: water heaters; central air conditioners / heat pumps; showerheads; clothes dryers; fans; electric motors; refrigerators / freezers; faucets; distribution transformers; and compressors.

Taking into account standards enacted by law and those set by DOE, the Obama administration has completed 18 more standards than any prior administration. Standards already completed during the Obama administration will cumulatively save 44 quads of energy and save consumers and businesses $540 billion on their utility bills through 2030, with standards expected to be completed between June 2016 and January 2017 adding to the totals.

The updates to existing standards over the next eight years would come on top of the long-term benefits from the underlying standards themselves. According to DOE, existing efficiency standards completed through February 2016 will, on a cumulative basis from 1987 to 2030, reduce the need for 132 quads of energy, save consumers nearly $2 trillion on their utility bills, and reduce CO2 emissions by more than 7 billion metric tons. For comparison, the entire U.S. economy uses about 100 quads of energy per year.

The new ASAP/ACEEE study, Next Generation Standards: How the National Energy Efficiency Standards Program Can Continue to Drive Energy, Economic, and Environmental Benefits, is available online.