Energy efficiency’s $1 trillion identity

Share Button

By Elisa Wood

January 22, 2009

The energy efficiency industry is a bit like the orphan who grows up to discover his long-lost parents left him a fortune.

The industry suffers from an identity crisis, says a report by the American Solar Energy Society. What is energy efficiency? Insulating attics? Demand response? Plug-in hybrids? Led lights? Combined heat and power?

ASES decided to quantify the worth of the energy efficiency job market, so first needed to define the industry. Here is what the organization came up with:

A job in the EE industry consists of an employee working in a sector that is entirely part of the EE industry, such as an energy service company (ESCO) or the recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing sector. It also includes some employees in industries in which only a portion of the output is classified as within the EE sector, such as household appliances, HVAC systems, construction, automobile manufacturing, and others.

The definition also includes those in government, finance, education, non-profit and environmental organizations, education, consulting and similar fields that deal with energy efficiency.

Using this definition the industry’s worth is tremendous. Gross revenues nationwide totaled more than $1 trillion in 2007. Energy efficiency created nearly 8.6 million jobs, more than 98% in private industry.

It is hard to fathom the import of $1 trillion. ASES provides perspective. It exceeds the combined sales of the three largest US corporations: Wal-Mart, Exxon- Mobil, and General Motors in 2007. Their sales were a meager $905 billion.

Beyond the report, why is it important for the industry to proceed with a clear identity? As President Obama moves forward with his “New Energy for America,” many will vie for a prominent position in the plan. ASES makes clear that a coalesced efficiency industry can provide what Obama seeks. Jobs and plenty of them: 29.8 million by 2030 that range from blue collar to high tech.

The industry has found its name–and fortune. Here is the chance to spread it around.

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

Share Button

About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of She has been writing about energy for more than three 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.


  1. We have in Sweden since some time än organisation for the “Energy Efficiency Business”.

    The companies come from all sorts of building-, installation, automation-related businesses and are recognising that they are selling the quality “Energy Efficiency” but that they are using different technologies for the same ends.

    They have also coined thmeselves as the “core business of the future”. Traditional core business (iron and ore, paper and pulp, chemical etc.) is energy intense and suffers from rising prices. The new core business prospers from the rising prices.

  2. solarwindmilly2 says:

    There could be no better investment in America than to invest in America becoming energy independent! We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources. Create cheap clean energy, new badly needed green jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. OPEC will continue to cut production until they achieve their desired 80-100. per barrel. The high cost of fuel this past year seriously damaged our economy and society. Oil is finite. We are using oil globally at the rate of 2X faster than new oil is being discovered. We need to take some of these billions in bail out bucks and bail ourselves out of our dependence on foreign oil. Jeff Wilson has a really good new book out called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now. He explores our uses of oil besides gasoline, our depletion, out reserves and stores as well as viable options to replace oil.Oil is finite, it will run out in the not too distant future. WE need to take some of these billions in bail out bucks and bail America out of it’s dependence on foreign oil. The historic high price of gas this past year did serious damage to our economy and society. WE should never allow others to have that much power over our economy again. I wish every member of congress would read this book too.

  3. Since I’m associated with a CHP company (Recycled Energy Development), I’m of course biased toward thinking about efficiency in such terms. But there’s an objective reason too: the potential is staggering. EPA and DOE estimates suggest energy recycling (of which CHP is the biggest form) could cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. That’s as much as if we removed every passenger vehicle from the road. Meanwhile, costs would go down due to greater efficiency. We should allow much more of this.