2020 was a wild ride; opportunities await in 2021
(ACEEE blog, 4 Jan 2021) The past year was a difficult one in energy efficiency as in so many parts of life, dominated by COVID-19 and the Trump administration, but quite a few states and localities quietly made progress amid the tumult. Many challenges of the pandemic will remain in 2021, but the Biden administration and state and local actions will provide opportunities for landmark progress in several areas of efficiency policy.
I expect this progress to align with ACEEE’s Call to Action, launched last year as part of our 40th anniversary and aimed at using energy efficiency to slash U.S. energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Efficiency workers are often unable to enter homes and other buildings because of COVID. As a result, U.S. efficiency-related employment declined by about 500,000 jobs by May 2020, before partially recovering to a net loss of 320,000 jobs by the end of October, aided by a variety of strategies employed by efficiency programs and contractors. With many people now working from home, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, residential energy use has increased about 3% over the March-September period compared to the previous year, but commercial and industrial sector energy use have each declined about 8%. The transportation sector has been most influenced by COVID, with energy use during this period nearly 20% less than the same period in 2019. Because of the COVID-induced recession, the International Energy Agency estimates that 2020 efficiency investments will be about 9% lower than in 2019.