Electricity still hot

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By Elisa Wood

April 2, 2009

Latest federal projections reveal that our passion isn’t cooling for large air-conditioned homes and electric gadgets.

US households have increased their electricity use by 23% over the past decade, and consumption will grow another 20% by 2030, according Annual Energy Outlook 2009, released March 31 by the Energy Information Administration. http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/index.html?featureclicked=1&

The report sees air conditioning use rising 24%, as the population migrates to the South and West. The number of refrigerators, washers and dryers grows as we add more houses; home electronics continue to “proliferate,” EIA says.

It is not just households gobbling up the power. We go to hotels, restaurants, stores, and movie theaters more. And they require more computers and other electronic equipment to serve us. In addition, as the population ages, it needs more electric medical and monitoring equipment. So power use in commercial buildings grows an average of 1.4% per year to 2030.

Of course, the economic recession is likely to dampen electricity consumption somewhat for now. But the report attempts to look “beyond current economic and financial woes and focus on factors that drive U.S. energy markets in the longer term.”

Energy efficiency is a bit like computer software created to negate viruses. The more viruses, the more updates to the software we need. So as electricity use grows, the efficiency industry is likely to find growing demand for its product — technology that allows us to use more and more electronic devices, but less and less electricity.

The report points out that best available efficiency technology cuts energy use without reducing service. By installing compact fluorescent bulbs, solid-state lighting, and condensing gas furnaces, we can reduce home energy consumption 29% over a business-as-usual scenario. Concern about energy prices, power plant emissions and energy independence will drive demand for these products.

The bottom line? Electricity will remain hot, and efficiency may be even hotter.

Visit Elisa Wood at www.realenergywriters.com and pick up her free Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

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