Electric Save: What Leads to Conservation

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They say that we learn from history in order to progress and avoid repeating past mistakes. Likewise, we learn from past electricity usage to try to figure out energy consumption trends. In our country’s case, we need to study the decline in electricity usage to figure out what we’re doing right, so that we can continue to save.

  • In recent years, the United States’ electricity usage was highest in 2007, and has been declining since then.
  • 2012 sales were 1.9% lower than 2007
  • 2013 sales were close to this 1.9% as well

This decline is thought to have been a result of the recession in 2008 and 2009. While this explains the initial decline in sales, it is still unclear why electricity sales continued to decline even after the economy began to recover. While some attribute the decline to the recession’s lasting effects, more observers believe that other economic improvements in energy sparked these savings.

Factors that may have influenced the decrease in electricity sales are:

  1. the decline of manufacturing,
  2. an increase of green buildings and more efficient buildings,
  3. efficient lighting and appliances, and
  4. an increase in on-site energy generation.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently completed their analysis on electricity trends over the past 20 years, focusing on 2007-2012 in particular.

The ACEEE concluded that there was not a single factor that influenced energy usage over this period. Rather, multiple factors contributed to the electricity trends such as:

  • programs to promote energy efficiency,
  • a slight increase in temperature,
  • changes in gross domestic product (GDP), and
  • increases in electricity prices.

Over the past five years, energy efficiency programs and policies mixed with warmer weather to provide electricity savings in residential and commercial areas. Since 2007, the efficiency programs and appliance and equipment efficiency standards that have been put in place contributed to these electricity savings. These factors are the two influencing factors that have seen major change in the past five years. In contrast, the other potential factors such as GDP and electricity prices did not undergo major changes, and therefore did not have a significant effect on the recent energy savings.

While current results point to energy efficiency programs as the main factor in electricity savings, these studies only account for residential and commercial areas. to better understand the source of electricity savings, the ACEEE will need to examine trends in the industrial sector of energy.

Because the results are not yet complete, the ACEEE looks at these results as indicative rather than definitive. The ACEEE plans to update this analysis in a few years to see if the energy savings continue. For example, this year’s cold winter could lead to higher energy usage as we try to keep our homes warm.

Do your part to keep energy usage in decline. By insulating and sealing your home, you will spend less energy and electricity trying to heat it, no matter how cold the winter weather is. The ACEEE hopes that the numbers stay low, but we have to do our part to help. Find out what you can do to get started on your energy savings and thus contribute to our nation’s savings.