Efficiency just isn't for real?

Consumers uneducated in engineering are often confused about energy efficiency. Sara Hayes, a senior researcher at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy tries to lay to rest some common misconceptions about energy efficiency.

Myth 1: There is no such thing as energy efficiency. It's just a concept. And there's no way to measure or verify if a new device or process improves or reduces it.

The lack of national standards for measuring and verifying efficiency-driven savings has left states to develop their own. So now more than half of all states have efficiency targets and are measuring their progress toward meeting those goals. Utilities have also been documenting energy savings from efficiency measures for decades. In many cases, a utility's authority to collect revenues is based on its ability to verify, with substantial certainty, those savings. So utilities have invested significant resources into developing methods that stand up to the scrutiny of regulators and ratepayers.

Myth 2: Lots of things affect energy use, making it impossible to tell when a change in energy consumption is from efficiency improvements or other factors.

An entire profession of energy program evaluators has developed over the last three decades. They use methods that are accepted in regulatory proceedings across the nation. When a new piece of equipment replaces an older version, the energy savings or losses can be accurately measured. While other factors such as the weather may affect total energy use, statistical methods can separate out these effects, pulling the wheat from the chaff.

Myth 3: You can't rely on efficiency to meet energy demands because you can't call on it when it's needed. Plus, you don't know how much you're going to get when you do.

Efficiency is not a “demand/response” device that is simply switched on when needed. Rather, it is more of a “baseload” approach that, once put into practice or embedded in a device, continues to save energy whenever that device operates.

Myth 4: Benefits from energy efficiency are small and aren't worth measuring.

Energy savings from efficiency are real and save Americans money. Since 1970, efficiency improvements have reduced U.S. energy costs by about $700 billion from what they would otherwise have been in 2005. And energy savings from efficiency measures in all sectors is predicted to be 16 to 30% of current consumption by 2025.

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