Energy Used in Buildings

Efficiency is helping reduce building energy use, but challenges remain

Buildings consume large quantities of energy for space and water heating, and for electricity. In 2010, the building sector was the source of 40% of the Northeast’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Electricity used for appliances and electronics has grown

Aggressive energy efficiency programs and mandatory federal appliance standards have reduced electricity consumed in the buildings sector, but at the same time, consumers are using more appliances, electronics, and other energy-using devices. For example, the first DVR was introduced in 1999. Ten years later, 43% of U.S. homes had a DVR, a device that can use as much energy in a year as a refrigerator. The same is true for many other appliances.4 As additional energy-consuming devices are used more widely and frequently, greater attention to appliance efficiency standards is needed to ensure associated energy use and emissions are minimized.

Inefficient existing homes continue to be a challenge in the buildings sector

Traditional energy efficiency programs have been particularly effective in capturing electric savings from residential lighting and appliances and from commercial and industrial applications. Customers that rely on heating oil and propane have limited access to electric and natural gas efficiency programs, thus constraining potential efficiency savings. Home weatherization projects that require major building upgrades to save on heating costs are more challenging because they often require big investments. Homeowners often do not plan to remain in a home long enough to fully achieve the long-term paybacks. While efficiency programs in the leading states have begun to address this market, strategies to address this area are still emerging.