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Energy Efficiency Impact Report Preview

Energy efficiency is a powerful tool that has delivered greater economic growth, reduced emissions, and enhanced our quality of life on a massive scale. Energy efficiency is, by nature, diverse, with applications that reflect every aspect of energy use in every sector. In part due to this diversity, energy efficiency is more than one technology, industry, or practice. The Energy Efficiency Impact Report aims to tell this story, in a quantitative assessment that is nonetheless accessible and informative for energy efficiency experts and newcomers alike.

Below is a preview of just some of the indicators that will be in the final report. What these indicators show is that energy efficiency investments and standards pay off, and result in reduced emissions, cheaper energy, and improved public health.

The final report will be released in December 2022, contain 59 indicators, and include other points of emphasis and relevant context.

Energy Efficiency Gains

Indicators 1-7

These indicators represent positive trendlines worth highlighting. Showcased are emissions reductions, public health benefits, and cost savings. These pair with corresponding indicators that display the impact energy efficiency investments and codes have on these metrics.


Energy Consumption and Emissions Reductions

Energy consumption and carbon emissions would be 60% higher without energy efficiency investments
Chart 2a | amCharts

Increasing energy productivity is the result of a combination of energy efficiency policies and innovations as well as structural changes in the economy. Had U.S. energy productivity remained at the level observed in 1980, U.S. energy consumption would have been more than double its current value, to achieve the same level of our current economic growth.1 ACEEE analysis estimates that energy efficiency is responsible for approximately 60% of the energy productivity improvements.2

Similarly, the U.S. would have produced 78% higher carbon emissions, or an additional 3,810 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021, without energy efficiency investments. This highlights the extraordinary scale of energy efficiency as a tool for decarbonization.Similarly, the U.S. would have produced 60% higher carbon emissions, or an additional 3,540 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2018, without energy efficiency investments. This highlights the extraordinary scale of energy efficiency as a tool for decarbonization.3


Energy Efficiency is a Low-Cost Resource

Energy efficiency is a cost-effective, reliable, zero-carbon resource
Chart 12a | amCharts
Energy efficiency allows utilities to meet state energy or emissions reduction requirements, as well as reliably meet its customers’ overall electricity demand. Thus, it is informative to consider energy efficiency as an energy resource: one that is distributed, zero-carbon, and often the most affordable option to satisfy energy needs relative to other generation technologies, even compared with wind and utility-scale solar.

Utilities and other program administrators develop and implement a diverse portfolio of programs that help different customers and sectors save energy using a variety of strategies. The cost-effectiveness of different programs can be quantified through several approaches, including by dividing the expenses by the number of kilowatt-hours saved for a levelized cost of saved electricity. The levelized costs shown above include only the program administrator costs, not any additional costs paid by customers.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory considered the levelized program administrator cost of saved electricity for a variety of utility ratepayer-funded efficiency program types in 2018, finding that costs ranged from residential lighting rebate programs (1.2 cents/kWh) to HVAC retrofits (8.6 cents/kWh).4


Energy Expenditures And Cost Savings

Efficiency investments have reduced today’s energy expenditures by approximately $800 billion (2020$)
Chart 5 | amCharts

EIA (2022) Monthly Energy Review

Historical Tables, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2022 (2021). Budget FY 2022


Energy efficiency has also led to enormous bill savings across the economy. Based on some simple assumptions,5 the chart shows the total energy expenditures across the U.S. economy from 1980 to 2020, and the energy cost savings each year due to energy efficiency investments since 1980. As energy prices overall dropped since 2008 (until this year), the amount of energy saved each year grew, and the dollar savings have remained around $800 billion each year.

To put this number in context: if we had had the same level of economic growth without these savings, energy spending would have been 77%, or $774 billion, higher in 2020.


Light-Duty Electric Vehicles

The size of the light-duty electric vehicle market has tripled from 2015 to 2022
Chart 46a | amCharts

Atlas (2022) Atlas EV Hub


Electric vehicles (EVs) in the light duty segment (which include battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell electric vehicles) present significant efficiency gains over conventional vehicles, with battery electric cars estimated to be twice as efficient as a conventional car on a well-to-wheel basis.6 The U.S. market for these vehicles has grown quickly in the last decade, driven in part by Zero-Emission Vehicle mandates in select states, and federal and state tax credits. In the first two quarters of  2022, the annual U.S. sales of EVs have already exceeded total sales in 2015 by more than a factor of four, to 430,000, primarily due to battery electric vehicle growth. The U.S. currently has an estimated 1.5 million electric vehicles, and there are 84 different makes and models of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles on the U.S. market as of September 2022.7 8


Policy Impact: Federal Appliance Standards

Policies for appliance efficiency are saving 16% of the total electricity generated in the U.S., and 6% of delivered natural gas
Chart 26A | amCharts

ACEEE & ASAP (2022)

Chart 26B | amCharts

ACEEE & ASAP (2022)

Federal appliance standards ensure a base-level efficiency for all appliances on the market, and have led to large-scale energy savings of both electricity and natural gas since 1990. These savings add to enormous benefits for U.S. households and businesses. A typical household saves about $500 per year on utility bills because new household appliances and heating, cooling, and lighting products comply with minimum standards.9 Estimates suggest the federal appliance standards program saved nearly 680 TWh in 2021 relative to efficiency levels without standards, which is over 16% of the total electricity that was generated in the U.S. in 2021 (4,115 TWh).10


Industrial Carbon Intensity

Industrial carbon intensity has declined 70% since 1980
Chart 38 | amCharts
The carbon intensity (carbon emissions per value of output) from the industrial sector has steadily declined over the last five decades. Between 1980 and 2021, industrial carbon intensity has fallen by 70%. This decline is due to various factors, including energy efficiency, a shift to producing higher value goods, and changes in energy source. However, this progress has slowed since in the last decade or so.

Manufacturing makes up roughly 80% of industrial emissions, while non-manufacturing subsectors of construction, mining, and agriculture make up the balance of industrial emissions.


Public Health Benefits

By reducing air emissions, 2017 utility electric efficiency programs were responsible for more than $500 million a year in public health benefits
Chart 9B | amCharts

Sources: EPA (2021), Public Health Benefits per kWh of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in the United States: A Technical Report; ACEEE (2021)

Energy efficiency also has positive impacts on public health, primarily by avoiding particulate matter emissions from additional energy generation.6 However, until recently, few methods existed to estimate the health impacts of energy efficiency. In 2019, the EPA published estimates for monetized health benefits per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity savings in 2017.7

The chart illustrates the estimated total monetary value of health benefits ($541 million) for one year of savings (also called incremental savings) from electricity ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs implemented in 20178, 9. This amounts to 40% of the estimated levelized total cost of the incremental electricity savings from the energy efficiency programs across all regions shown ($1.36 billion).10, 11

Energy Efficiency Areas of Opportunity

Indicators 8-12

These indicators represent areas of opportunity. We can see that while progress is being made, there is still a relatively small number of cities and states with the most up-to-date performance standards and energy codes, a relatively small number of buildings retrofitted for zero-energy, tremendous international room for improvement, and the energy insecurity figures speak for themselves.


Building Performance Standards

Tremendous room to grow
U.S. City and State Policies for Existing Buildings: Building Performance Standards
U.S. City and State Policies for Existing Buildings: Building Performance Standards
National Building Performance Standards Coalition (June 28, 2022)
U.S. City and State Policies for Existing Buildings: Building Performance Standards

Contributing Cities and Counties

Ann Arbor, MI

Annapolis, MD

Aspen, CO

Atlanta, GA

Boston, MA

Boulder, CO

Cambridge, MA

Chicago, IL

Chula Vista, CA

Columbus, OH

County of Los Angeles

Denver, CO

Evanston, IL

Fort Collins, CO

Grand Rapids, MI

Ithaca, NY

Kansas City, MO

Los Angeles, CA

Milwaukee, WI

Montgomery County, MD

Montpelier, VT

New York, NY

Orlando, FL

Philadelphia, PA

Pittsburgh, PA

Portland, OR

Prince George’s County, MD

Reno, NV

Sacramento, CA

San Diego, CA

San Francisco, CA

Savannah, GA

Seattle, WA

St. Louis, MO

Washington, DC

While building efficiency codes are an effective policy to improve building energy performance, codes only impact new construction or alterations, which only slowly affects the total building stock. As of 2018, roughly 91% of all commercial buildings were over 8 years old (built before 2010).11 Typically, building structures last 70-80 years.

A building performance standard (BPS) is a policy that sets energy use or GHG emissions targets for existing buildings. BPS policies can complement codes for new buildings and be adapted based on the jurisdiction. BPS policies typically set increasing targets over time, with timelines often varying based on the size of the building or based on equity considerations, such as allowing extended timelines for compliance for affordable housing (e.g., St. Louis and DC). 12

In January 2022, the federal government launched the National BPS Coalition. Over 30 participating jurisdictions are committed to passing a building performance policy by Earth Day 2024.13


Zero Net Energy Buildings

The U.S. market for Zero Net Energy Buildings is growing rapidly, but still constitutes a small fraction of the building market
Chart 35a | amCharts

Sources: Team Zero (2017, 2018), Inventory

Chart 35b | amCharts

*As of July 2022. All values exclude multifamily.

NBI (2022) Getting to zero Buildings Database

The U.S. market for zero net energy buildings is growing rapidly

The construction of zero net energy and zero energy ready buildings is a very recent trend that still constitutes a small fraction of the building market, but is growing rapidly.14 From 2017 to 2020, the total number of residential units nearly doubled. As of July 2022, the number of verified commercial buildings has reached 154 and the number of emerging commercial buildings striving for zero net energy has reached 462, respectively representing a 30% and 70% increase since 2018.15 Certifications such as LEED Zero may help drive more net zero energy projects by facilitating recognition and incentives. States and cities are also beginning to incorporate net zero energy into codes and stretch codes.16


Addressing The Energy Burden

27% of U.S. households had difficulty meeting their energy needs (over 30 million homes are having difficulty meeting their energy needs)
Chart 29 | amCharts

EIA RECS Survey (2022) Today in Energy

More than 60% of low-income households in the U.S. face a high energy burden, with some paying more than 20% of their income on utility bills.17 These consumers’ lower incomes, coupled with the fact that they often live in less energy-efficient housing, boosts the impacts of energy efficiency investments to enhance quality of life and reduce energy expenditures. High energy burdens can lead households to make sacrifices: 27% of all households reported some sort of energy insecurity, leading them to forego other necessities to pay an energy bill or to maintain their home at an unsafe temperature.


Model Building Energy Codes

Building energy codes have reduced energy use in buildings by over 40% over three decades, yet in the majority of states, further savings could be achieved by adopting the newest international energy efficiency codes

Building energy codes set minimum efficiency requirements for renovated or new buildings, often locking in savings through the building’s lifespan (which can reach over 100 years).18 Model energy codes are conservatively expected to save $138 billion in energy costs and 13.5 quads of primary energy over the 2010 to 2040.19 A home built to the specifications of the International Energy Conservation Code of 2021 would use roughly 45% less energy than if it had been built using standard practices in 1975. As of 2022, only three states have adopted efficiency standards comparable to the International Energy Conservation Code of 2021.20


International Scorecard Rankings

Energy efficiency ambitions vary internationally

2022 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard

The ACEEE International Scorecard scores and ranks the energy efficiency deployments of the 25 top energy-consuming countries in the world, which collectively represent 82% of all energy consumption and over 80% of the world’s GDP in 2014, on the basis of 36 policy and performance metrics.

France led with an overall score of 74.5 out of 100 possible points, and also earned the top spot in the transportation category. The remaining top five were the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy. No country achieved a perfect score, and the average score declined slightly from 2018, indicating that countries have achieved limited progress in the past few years. Energy efficiency is an important tool to address climate change and reduce energy consumption. Countries will need to step up their efforts to make progress on their climate goals. 21


  1. EIA (2019), Monthly Energy Review
  2. ACEEE (2015), Energy Efficiency in the United States: 35 Years and Counting.
  3. This chart assumes the same energy intensities as the chart above and uses the actual emissions intensities per quad of energy use for each year.
  4. LBNL (2021) Still the One: Efficiency Remains a Cost-Effective Electricity Resource
  5. Assumptions: EIA estimates total energy expenditures for each year; based on the energy savings as a fraction of energy use each year, we estimated total energy cost savings as a fraction of expenditures. Note: the energy expenditures are shaped by volatility in energy prices as well as changes in energy use.
  6. Argonne National Laboratory (2018),Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) Model, 2018 WTW Calculator. GREET estimates well-to-wheel efficiency gains (in Btu/mile) for different passenger car types relative to a conventional gasoline vehicle: 40% for hybrid electric vehicles, 223% for battery electric vehicles running on the average U.S. electricity mix, and 50% for fuel cell electric vehicles running on hydrogen produced by centralized natural gas steam methane reforming.
  7.  DOE (2022) https://afdc.energy.gov/data/10962
  8. https://evadoption.com/ev-models/
  9. ACEEE (2017), Energy-Saving States of America: How Every State Benefits from National Appliance Standards
  10. EIA (2022) Electricity Data Browser
  11. CBECS (2019) 2018 CBECS Survey Data
  12. IMT (2022) Comparison of U.S. Building Performance Standards
  13. National BPS Coalition (2022) About the National BPS Coalition
  14.  970,000 single-family homes and 371,000 multifamily units were completed in 2021. Census Bureau (2019), Characteristics of New Housing.
  15.  New Buildings Institute (2022), Getting to Zero Buildings Database.
  16. ZERO Code – California commercial (proposed/alternate); Title 24-2019 – California residential statewide code Residential; Appendix Z – Washington D.C commercial alternate compliance path; Executive Order No. 10-20—Oregon Residential Zero Energy Ready Home by 2022.
  17.  ACEEE (2020) How high are household energy burdens?
  18. Energy-Efficient Codes Coalition (2019), The IECC: A Life-Safety Code That Pays 100 Years of Dividends to Occupants & Our Nation
  19. DOE (2021) The Impact of Building Energy Codes
  20. PNNL (2022) Status of State Energy Code Adoption: Residential Buildings
  21. ACEEE (2022) International Scorecard