Conversations about energy efficiency tend to focus on use — how energy is used, the efficiency of that use, and how to decrease that use. Consistently overlooked in the course of these conversations is the amount of energy that is wasted.
Wasted vs. Useful Energy
Useful energy is the potential energy of a fuel source that is converted and put toward the use for which it was intended. Wasted energy, often referred to as “rejected energy,” is potential energy that, for one reason or another, is not put to any useful work. Energy waste spans all aspects of life and comes in various forms.
On a small but measurably cumulative level, your clients or constituents waste energy daily. Lights left on in vacant rooms, appliances and electronics left plugged in when not in use, opening the windows while the heat or air conditioning is on — these are all actions that create non-useful consumption of energy. Empty rooms don’t need to be lit and heating or air conditioning does not need to be wasted through open windows.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, energy waste also occurs at the source. Power plants in the United States currently operate at an average of about 30% efficiency — of the potential energy of fuel sources such as coal, only 30% of it is converted to electricity. The rest escapes, unused for its intended purpose.
In 2012, the most recent year with verified statistics, the US generated 95.1 quadrillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of raw energy. Each quadrillion BTUs is knows as a “quad”. Aside from petroleum used in vehicles, coal produced the largest amount of energy with 17.4 quads. 15.9 of those coal-derived quads were used in electricity generation, accounting for nearly half of electricity generation sources. Of the total quads generated, 38.1 of them went into electricity generation but only 12.4 quads were converted to electricity — the rest, 67.5% of it, was wasted.
Altogether, the US economy wasted 58.1 quads of the total 95.1 quads it generated. That is 61.1% of total quads, well over half of the energy generated. In fact, the last year the US used more quads of energy than it wasted was 1970 — that year, a total of 61.6 quads was generated and 31.1 of them were converted into useful energy.
The Best and the Worst
Every state approaches matters of energy conservation and energy waste in its own way. Some actively and aggressively pursue improvements, some do the bare minimum, and others do nothing at all.
Every year, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) rates the energy efficiency efforts of all 50 states. The State Energy Efficiency Scorecard uses a 50-point scale to rate the energy efficiency initiatives offered by each state. The top 10 most energy efficient states in 2015 are:
- Rhode Island
- New York
- Minnesota and Illinois (tied)
This is Massachusetts’ fifth year as the ACEEE’s number one most efficient state. This is thanks, in large part, to their Green Communities Act — state law offers technical and financial support to all municipalities seeking to improve their energy efficiency.
California’s greenhouse gas reduction requirements, robust energy efficiency education efforts, and Cap and Trade program — a market-based mechanism aimed at lowering greenhouse gas emissions — kept it near the top. Illinois rose in the list thanks to its early adoption of the newest building energy codes and procurement agreements with the Illinois Power Agency.
Across the country, an estimated 25.7 million megawatt-hours of electricity and 374 million therms of gasoline were saved thanks to electricity and energy efficiency programs. This is a large savings from previous years: megawatt-hour savings increased by about 5.8% from 2013, and savings of therms of gasoline increased by about 35% in the same period.
The five worst states for energy efficiency in 2015 were:
- South Dakota
- North Dakota
Louisiana is new to the bottom five rankings, but the other states have been there for at least three years running. These states suffer from a failure to keep pace with the advancements other states are making, including yearly upgrades and improvements.
Though not in the bottom five states, New Mexico stands out this year for its notable drops. Ranked 24th (tied with North Carolina and Utah) in 2013, it dropped to 25th (tied with Ohio) in 2014. This year, it dropped drastically, from 24th to 31st (tied with 5 other states). This sudden decline is due largely to New Mexico’s failure to adopt a new set of building energy efficiency codes after the previous ones expired in 2009.
AM Conservation Group
Help your clients and constituents take steps to improve energy efficiency. Doing so will help you reach your energy efficiency goals and lower energy usage overall.
At home or at work, your constituents can make simple equipment upgrades that will greatly increase their energy efficiency with minimal cost and even less effort. For example, smart and other advanced power strips, occupancy sensor light controls, and energy efficient lighting are three products that are very simple to use and can lead to quantifiable energy savings.
Further educate your constituents on simple upgrades they can make by providing them with energy savings kits. Download our free Energy Savings Kit Whitepaper to learn how these kits can help you reach your energy efficiency goals.