Energy Efficiency Fiction

The drumbeat continues: Energy efficiency can dramatically cut energy use … perhaps by 50%.

While LEDs can result in real energy savings at a reasonable cost, some organizations continue to trumpet preposterous and outrageous claims about energy efficiency.

A recent McKinsey report on how industry could dramatically cut its use of energy, claimed that operational improvements could result in improving energy efficiency by 50% in some cases, but by 10% to 20% overall.

The report listed 108 technologies across many industries with the percent energy reductions each technology could achieve.

Number industries

Percent reductions




2% – 5%


5% – 15%



When 72 of the 108 technologies can only achieve a 5% or less improvement in energy usage, it’s not likely that energy usage will be cut dramatically. It should be noted that 11 of the 36 technologies that might achieve energy improvements greater than 5% are  from demonstration or pilot projects.

Improving energy efficiency is always a good objective if the paybacks can occur quickly, and 2/3 of the technologies in the McKinsey report apparently have acceptable paybacks of less than 5 years.

In any case, the McKinsey report doesn’t support the contention that industry can dramatically cut its energy usage.

More egregious claims are made by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The latest ACEEE report, The 2015 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, ranks all states as to how well they comply with standards that ACEEE has established regarding energy efficiency.

It all looks scientific, but is actually an effort to get people to use less energy so as to cut CO2 emissions.

For example, here are some key criteria used by ACEEE for comparing each state’s performance for energy efficiency improvements:

  • Reduction in vehicle miles traveled
  • Adoption of transit systems, using dollars spent on transit as the measurement
  • Achieve a 26% reduction in CO2 emissions
  • Establishing mandatory energy efficiency targets (EERS) for utilities
  • Allowing personal energy information to be made available to third parties
  • Forcing the adoption of energy codes mandated by the Department of Energy (DOE)
  • Comparing the use of financial incentives, i.e., using tax payer money, to promote energy efficiency
ACEEE State Rankings for Improvements in EnergyEfficiency
ACEEE State Rankings for Improvements in EnergyEfficiency

It’s worth remembering how ACEEE evaluated the United States in its international evaluation of energy efficiency report to understand the political motivations that may be behind ACEEE.

For example, in the residential sector of the ACEEE’s International Report, the United States scored a 1 (nearly the worst possible rating) while China scored a 5 (best possible rating).

In other words, according to ACEEE, buildings in China were more efficient than in the United States, by a factor of 5 to 1.

Anyone who has been to China can understand the ignorance behind such a ranking, and also the political motivations behind the ACEEE reports.

Here is a paragraph from an earlier article, Distorted Energy Efficiency Assertions.

“New apartment buildings in China don’t have heating or air-conditioning and lack elevators below the fifth floor. The government assumes people don’t need heating with temperatures of 40 degrees F since they can put on sweaters or jackets. People also don’t need air-conditioning with temperatures of 95 degrees F, which are not uncommon in much of China.”

In essence, the ACEEE reports are about cutting CO2 emissions by requiring U.S. citizens to cut their energy use no matter how much it negatively impacts their standard of living. Reducing vehicle miles traveled is a good example. Forcing the adoption of DOE mandated energy codes is another.

Except for LEDs, there is no technology currently available that can result in a 50% improvement in energy efficiency.

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