Why Energy Efficiency Opportunities Aren’t More Attractive to Consumers and Businesses
Why don’t consumers and businesses take greater advantage of cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities? If so much energy can be saved, why doesn’t everyone do it, especially when the cost savings over time tend to well outweigh the initial costs?
The answer is complex, as there is no one reason for this seeming behavior gap. Each of this chapter’s sector discussions, as well as the policy discussion at the end of the chapter, identify factors—commonly called barriers—that impede the full uptake of energy efficiency technologies and measures. They fall into several categories, but the following examples illustrate how some of them affect decisions:
Cost savings may not be the only factor influencing a decision to invest in an energy efficiency measure. For example, consumers purchase vehicles based on many factors, such as size, performance, and interior space, in addition to fuel economy. In reality, fuel economy may not come into the picture at all.
Although energy and cost savings might be achievable with only a low first cost (investment), such savings may be a small-enough part of the family or company budget that they are not really relevant to economic decisions.
The up-front financial investment might be small, but substantial investments of time and effort may be required to find and study information about potential energy-saving technologies, measures, and actions.
It is well established that purchasers tend to focus much more on first costs than on life-cycle costs when making investments. This behavior is no different when it comes to energy efficiency. There is also the phenomenon of risk aversion—new products may be unfamiliar or not work as expected. The default behavior is often simply the status quo. Knowing this, producers may never design and develop energy-efficient products.
Some of the behavior gap can be attributed to economic structural issues. For example, landlords of rental residential buildings are not motivated to pay for
2020–3035 timeframe and beyond—and the research and development (R&D) needed to support their development.
ENERGY USE IN THE UNITED STATES AND THE POTENTIAL FOR IMPROVED ENERGY EFFICIENCY
In 2008, the United States used 99.4 quadrillion Btu (quads) of primary energy (see Figure 4.1). About 31 percent of this total was consumed in industry,