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Building’s Electricity Use Same as 1980 but Offset with Energy Efficiency

February 1, 2013 By Linda Hardesty

The US is consuming energy considerably more efficiently and with lower emissions than just five years ago thanks to a slew of modern technologies that are changing decades-old patterns, finds research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance and industry group the Business Council for Sustainable Energy in a new report.

The Sustainable Energy in America 2013 Factbook portrays a dynamic and rapidly changing US energy landscape. Energy efficiency is making a major impact, and as a result energy demand has fallen steeply.

Figure 91 (pictured) shows how the energy consumption of commercial buildings in the US has evolved since the 1980s. In that period, energy intensity has decreased by over 40 percent. This improvement is mainly due to reduced consumption of primary energy (predominantly natural gas), which can be attributed to higher levels of efficiency in new buildings and improvements to hardware and operations relating to heating, ventilation and air conditioning within older buildings.

Electricity intensity has not decreased in the same way. Still, although a commercial building in 2012 has far more electricity-consuming appliances than its equivalent in 1980, buildings today are not consuming substantially more electricity per square foot than they were. In other words, the increase in uses for electricity has been offset by improvements to HVAC and lighting.

The Factbook highlights how energy efficiency is increasingly becoming a priority, particularly among large power consumers such as manufacturers who are being ever more cost-conscious.

US utility budgets for efficiency expenditures reached $7 billion in 2011 (the latest available date for which data exists), and financing for energy efficiency retrofits has become increasingly sophisticated, propelling further greening of US buildings.


2 comments on “Building’s Electricity Use Same as 1980 but Offset with Energy Efficiency

  1. “although a commercial building in 2012 has far more electricity-consuming appliances than its equivalent in 1980, buildings today are not consuming substantially more electricity per square foot than they were. In other words, the increase in uses for electricity has been offset by improvements to HVAC and lighting.”

    Put another way, this proves Jeavons Paradox (or the rebound effect). “The proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource. ” (Wikipedia)

  2. It’s like increases in the speed of broadband. The faster the speeds get, the more uses we find for higher speeds.

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