A Review of Non-Regulatory Energy Efficiency Measures in the United States

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Increasing energy efficiency is ubiquitous in many economies, and several mechanisms for achieving this increase, from mandatory policies to voluntary initiatives, have been proposed and implemented. In the United States, the Department of Energy, during the development of its energy conservation standard rules, evaluates the benefits from several of these mechanisms. In this report, we review how estimates of benefits from two types of voluntary energy efficiency initiatives – rebates and voluntary energy efficiency targets (VETs) – compare to the same benefits estimated for minimum energy efficiency standards (MEPS) established in the United States for residential appliances, commercial and industrial equipment, and lighting applications (referred to simply as “products” for the remainder of this report) between 2010 and 2020. Our results show that, overall, these two voluntary measures are estimated to provide, altogether, 36% of the total energy savings estimated to be provided by new efficiency standards, with a total net-present value that corresponds to 52% of the net-present value estimated for standards. When considering all energy conservation rules reviewed in this report, the energy savings a rebate program is estimated to achieve ranges from less than 1% to 86% of the savings from new standards set for the same type of product and at the same level of energy efficiency. As for VETs, the energy savings range from less than 1% to 78% of the savings from standards. Results vary widely across types of products due to (a) the relevance of the monetary incentive relative to incremental upfront costs considered for each type of product, and (b) the estimated level of market barriers associated with each type of product. While voluntary energy efficiency initiatives are not as effective as MEPS in transforming the market and raising the bar of energy efficiency for energy consuming goods in an economy, when applied in tandem with MEPS they can be powerful instruments for promoting and increasing energy efficiency in the economy.

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