The United States consumed 97.7 quadrillion Btu (British thermal units) of energy in 2017 alone to power its homes, businesses, transportation, and industrial spaces. Without efforts to make electricity consumption sustainable, the Btu figures will inevitably rise. Ideally, energy efficiency and renewable energy work hand in hand to mitigate this situation.
Energy Efficiency: Not Getting the Attention it Deserves
Renewable energy has been the rave of the decade. It has, afterall, been a long time coming until we developed good enough technology to affordably harness massive amounts of electricity from clean resources. Companies are eager to adopt new technologies to mark their participation in global sustainability goals.
Improving generation and consumption efficiency, on the other hand, gets a little less attention. That is despite a clear imperative towards smart energy policies reached as early as 1992 in the Rio Summit. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute reports that our country has missed out on at least USD4 trillion of energy savings because of its lagged adoption of the Rio Declaration.
Barriers to Efficient Energy Use
The Department of Energy estimates that just eliminating wasted energy can help meet 32% of the country’s total energy needs by 2025. However, the energy adds that agencies and utilities have to surmount many barriers for this possibility to become a reality in the near future.
A study across all sectors found that major barriers to energy efficiency goals include:
- Industry-specific hindrances
- Lack or shortage of staff time
- Investor interest versus user interest dilemma
- Economic, financial, and regulatory factors in the industrial setting
- Lack of information about energy consumption patterns and efficiency measures
- Priority setting within organizations when or whether to adopt smart energy protocol
Stakeholders Set the Pace of Energy-Efficient Solutions
Many individual consumers remain bewildered and hesitant about their role in enhancing energy efficiency. Despite available programs, only 2 million consumers were enrolled in these programs across the country in 2018.
It is not just the homeowners, though. Corporate consumers reportedly still underestimate the impact of setting their priorities in line with sustainability goals. The informed participation of corporate and household consumers is vital for the success of any reduction program.
On the part of the government, there is a noticeable difference between existent efficiency tax incentives, or the lack thereof, and the tax codes for other sustainability strategies like renewable energy resources. Currently and in the near future, more than 80% of energy is and will still be sourced through existing grids. Incentivizing consumers to use electricity efficiently remains essential to reaching short and long term sustainability goals.
At present, congressmen need coaxing to update efficiency thresholds and modernize related incentives. the last incentive program for home, construction, and building efficiency had expired in 2017.
It’s Time to Make Energy Efficiency Central in Sustainability Efforts
It’s obvious that the country’s sustainable energy policies and practices needs more improvement. Some agencies like the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) were formed recently for that sole purpose, but government initiative is not enough.
Utilities, corporations, households, and other consumers have to adjust to, prioritize, and take up their fair share of improving their consumption efficiency. Without this cooperation, the development of energy efficiency will remain at a crawl.