Energy efficiency is a commitment to get the maximum impact from energy consumed.

This is a simple statement. However, energy efficiency’s diversity – one of its primary benefits – can make its characterization a complex task. Energy efficiency encompasses a range of technologies, behaviors, and industries, and it has relevant applications to most sectors of the economy. It can respond to a range of market signals, cover all U.S. geographies, and unlock financing strategies that incorporate energy savings. To use this robust, diverse, and dynamic tool, energy efficiency implementation in the U.S. has often been closely tied to energy efficiency policy.

But what energy efficiency lacks in definitional simplicity, it makes up for in scale and diversity. And this is the opportunity and call to action. It has been said that “people who undervalue energy efficiency just keep forgetting the numbers.” Energy efficiency commitments add up to a massive, accessible, and low-cost zero-carbon energy resource. This report seeks to characterize 54 indicators that highlight the main features of the energy efficiency market, describe what our previous commitments to energy efficiency have achieved today, and give a sense of how much further it can take us.

The indicators in this report highlight several key features of energy efficiency:

Energy efficiency is diverse and ubiquitous.

Energy efficiency provides diverse value throughout the delivery chain, including the manufacture, installation and service of products and strategies relating to nearly all fuel types (electricity, natural gas, petroleum fuels, renewable energy) and energy end-uses (buildings, power, industry, transportation). Multiple investment paths are possible, including the installation of new technology, operations and maintenance, system efficiency, and behavioral adjustments. Investing in energy efficiency is also not dependent on a single strategy, policy, or technology, but is available through a portfolio approach with tremendous diversity and breadth. Energy efficiency jobs also constitute 40% of all energy jobs, totaling 2.3 million.

Energy efficiency works.

As an energy resource, energy efficiency is proven, affordable and reliable. In our energy systems, we plan for it, count on it, and it helps to keep the lights on. Energy efficiency is recognized as a resource in capacity markets, integrated resource plans, and as an alternative to building new infrastructure. Governments, utilities, and corporations know, trust, and rely on energy efficiency, have done so for decades, and continue to do so now more than ever. And when compared with investments in supply-side generation it is often the least cost option.

Energy efficiency is high-impact, large-scale, and growing.

Our energy efficiency potential is larger-scale and more powerful than generally realized, and new energy efficiency technologies, like connected devices and controls, are scaling-up quickly, increasing this potential further.

Energy efficiency is a distributed and zero-carbon resource.

Energy efficiency is the foundation of deep decarbonization and is also one of the best-established and most-implemented examples of a distributed and zero-carbon resource that usually does not require additional land use. Energy efficiency, together with grid integration technologies, also plays an important role in shaping electricity demand to match supply, features that make it an enabler in deploying other renewable resources. However, the scale of energy efficiency required for deep decarbonization dwarfs the current size of energy efficiency investments

Energy efficiency is a process, not a destination.

Energy efficiency continues to change with our evolving energy system, providing an unending source of opportunities. As a result, energy efficiency requires continued commitment, assessment, and development of new strategies.

Looking back, energy efficiency has changed the U.S. energy economy and improved people’s lives.

Decades of energy efficiency investments and a combination of policies – building energy codes and energy efficiency resource standards, appliance standards, voluntary standards and fuel economy standards, utility programs, certification and benchmarking programs, technical assistance, and financing tools – have brought us to where we are today. The results are tremendous, and have supported a robust economy that has doubled its energy productivity. It has also mitigated energy burdens for households, supported a thriving market for advanced lighting, appliances, energy service companies and electric vehicles, and reduced carbon emissions and air pollutants to a fraction of what they would have been.

Looking forward, energy efficiency is a key to achieving tomorrow’s objectives.

Whether we’re seeking to boost economic productivity, improve air quality or meet climate-related emissions reductions objectives, energy efficiency is a foundational tool to achieve these goals. New technologies are also emerging that have the potential to integrate many aspects of energy efficiency into higher levels of system optimization, yielding even more impressive outcomes. However, just as our progress to date has relied on extensive policy and programmatic support, ensuring we take full advantage of tomorrow’s energy efficiency will require sustained commitment to use our energy well.

Backgrounder: U.S. Energy Consumption in Context


The U.S. constitutes 4% of worldwide population1, and:

  • Produces 24% of global GDP2
  • Accounted for 15.6% of worldwide energy demand in 20183
  • Produced 14.7% of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions in 20184
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About U.S. Energy Consumption

  • U.S. per capita energy consumption is roughly 2.6 gallons of oil,5 11.5 pounds of coal,6 and 250 cubic feet of natural gas7 per day.
  • Residential electricity consumption is estimated to be 12.2 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per capita per day.8
  • In 2018 total energy (or primary energy) terms, consumption was 850 thousand British thermal units (Btu) per day per capita, or 309 million Btus per year.9
  • Energy consumption can be grouped into different end-use sectors (as well as the power sector), which each require different energy consumption and usage patterns: Residential, CommercialIndustrial, and Transportation. Energy consumption in the residential and commercial sectors is in (or around) buildings; the industrial sector includes energy consumed in energy-intensive industrial processes, and often includes on-site energy generation. The transportation sector is predominantly reliant on petroleum fuels.
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Basics of Energy Consumption Impacts

  • Economy: U.S. total energy expenditures in 2017 reached $1.14 trillion, or 5.8% of U.S. GDP.10
  • Environment: The combustion of fossil fuels is the primary source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), volatile organic compounds (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride), particulate matter, and other pollutants such as mercury. In 2017, 76% of total U.S. anthropogenic GHG emissions were due to combustion of fossil fuels.11 Currently, the transportation sector is the greatest emitter of GHGs.
  • Energy volatility and costs: Though the U.S. has been experiencing a period of low energy prices relative to previous periods, energy prices remain volatile. The day-to-day operations of energy-intensive industries are inextricably linked to energy prices, and these costs are often passed along to the consumer.
    • For businesses: Energy price volatility creates risk and uncertainty for energy-intensive sectors. For example, fuel costs have been estimated at 23.5% of expenditures for the global aviation industry in 2018;12 21% of total supply costs (excluding labor) in the U.S. mining industry;13 and more than $149 billion ($2012) dollars to operate commercial buildings in 2012.14
    • For households: More than 60% of low-income households in the U.S. experienced a high energy burden in 2017,15 defined as spending more than 6% of their income on energy expenses. Higher percentages of African American, elderly, renting and Latino households experienced high burdens. In 2015, 21% of U.S. households nationally reported forgoing food or medicine to pay energy costs, 11% reported leaving their home at an unhealthy temperature, and 15% reported receiving disconnect or delivery stop notices due to their inability to pay.16
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EIA (2019), State Energy Data System; FRED (2019), GDPDEF

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