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State and Local Climate and Energy Program

Energy Efficiency (EE)

Benefits of Energy Efficiency

Improving energy efficiency is one of the most constructive and cost-effective ways to address the challenges of high energy prices, energy security and independence, air pollution, and global climate change. The many benefits of energy efficiency include:

  • Environmental: Increased efficiency can lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other pollutants, as well as decrease water use.
  • Economic: Improving energy efficiency costs significantly less than investing in new generation and transmission. Energy efficiency can also boost the local economy and create downward pressure on natural gas prices and volatility.
  • Utility System Benefits: When integrated into energy resource plans, energy efficiency can provide long-term benefits by lowering baseload and peak demand and reducing the need for additional generation and transmission assets.
  • Risk Management: Energy efficiency also diversifies utility resource portfolios and can be a hedge against uncertainty associated with fluctuating fuel prices and other risk factors.

Local Opportunities to Improve Energy Efficiency

Local governments can take a wide range of approaches to promoting energy efficiency, both in their own operations and in their communities. The links to the key sectors and utilities partners below provide background information, options for increasing energy efficiency in that sector, actions local governments can take, and technical assistance and informational resources.

  • Local Government Operations and Facilities – Nearly one-third of the energy used to run typical government buildings can be conserved. Local governments can achieve substantial energy cost savings across their facilities, demonstrate energy and environmental leadership, and raise public awareness of energy efficiency benefits associated with reducing GHG emissions. In addition to improving the efficiency of existing and new facilities, local governments can incorporate energy efficiency criteria into product procurement decisions.
  • Water and Wastewater Facilities – Municipal water treatment systems are typically the largest consumers of energy in municipal operations, accounting for up to 40 percent of their total energy use. Improving the energy efficiency of equipment and process technologies at water and wastewater facilities can reduce current and projected energy costs, GHG emissions, and increase treatment efficiency. Energy efficiency at many of the nation's water and wastewater treatment facilities can potentially be increased by 15-30 percent.
  • Non–Governmental Buildings – Government operations typically account for only 5 percent of the total GHG emissions of a jurisdiction. Strategies to improve the energy efficiency of commercial, industrial, and other non-governmental buildings allow local governments to achieve much greater benefits than by focusing on their buildings alone.
  • Residential – In 2007, GHG emissions associated with energy consumption in the residential sector amounted to nearly 17 percent of total U.S. emissions. Improving energy efficiency in homes represents an important opportunity for local governments to reduce energy demand, help households save money, and meet environmental objectives.
  • Utilities and Energy Efficiency Program Sponsors – By working with electric and gas utilities, regional energy efficiency alliances, and other organizations dedicated to improving energy efficiency, local governments can leverage resources and capitalize on the expertise and unique abilities of utilities and alliances to improve energy efficiency among end users in their jurisdictions.

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