The panel examined the available energy efficiency literature and performed additional analyses. For each sector, comparisons were made to a “baseline” or “business as usual” case to estimate the potential for energy savings. These are described in Annex 3.A.

Buildings Sector

About 40 percent of the primary energy used in the United States, and fully 73 percent of the electricity, is used in residential and commercial buildings. Diverse studies for assessing this sector’s energy-savings potential, although they take many different approaches, are remarkably consistent and have been confirmed by the supply curves developed for this report. The consensus is that savings of 25–30 percent relative to current EIA (2008) reference case projections could be achieved over the next 20–25 years. These savings, which would come principally from technologies that are more efficient for space heating and cooling, water heating, and lighting, could hold energy use in buildings about constant even as population and other drivers of energy use grow. Moreover, the savings could be achieved at a cost per energy unit that would be lower than current average retail prices for electricity and gas.3 For the entire buildings sector, the supply curves in Chapter 2 of this report (Figures 2.5 and 2.6) as well as in the panel report (NAS-NAE-NRC, 2009c) show that a cumulative investment of $440 billion4 in existing technology between 2010 and 2030 could produce an annual savings of $170 billion in reduced energy costs.

Advanced technologies just emerging or under development promise even greater gains in energy efficiency. They include solid-state lighting (light-emitting diodes); advanced cooling systems that combine measures to reduce cooling requirements with emerging technologies for low-energy cooling, such as evaporative cooling, solar-thermal cooling, and thermally activated desiccants; control sys-


The average residential electricity price in the United States in 2007 was 10.65¢/kWh (in the commercial sector, the average price was 9.65¢/kWh). The average residential price for natural gas in the United States in 2007 was $12.70/million Btu (in the commercial sector, the average price was $11/million Btu).


The investments include both the full add-on costs of new equipment and measures (such as attic insulation) and the incremental costs of purchasing an efficient technology (e.g., a high-efficiency boiler) compared with purchasing conventional-counterpart technology (e.g., a standard boiler). These investments would be made instance-by-instance by the individuals and public or private entities involved. The costs of policies and programs that would support, motivate, or require these improvements are not included.

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