Energy Consumption Data: The Key to Improved Energy Efficiency

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One of the overarching goals of the future energy system is to use less energy and to use it more efficiently. In order to meet this goal, the United States must use less electricity more efficiently because electricity makes up 40% of total U.S. energy consumption. Moreover, buildings account for 39% of total U.S. energy use and 68% of electricity use. As a result, increasing the efficiency of electricity use in buildings has the potential to reduce overall U.S. energy use, which leads to decreased energy costs, reduced need to build more power plants, greater energy security, greenhouse gas reductions, and significant environmental protection benefits. But in spite of over thirty years of local, state, and federal programs offering energy efficiency incentives and educating residential, commercial, and industrial customers about cost-effective energy saving opportunities, the impacts of these programs consistently fall short. One of the critical barriers standing in the way is adequate data on energy consumption. This essay explores recent efforts that federal, state, and local governments have taken to create regulatory frameworks to collect energy consumption data and make it available to consumers and, in some cases, to the public. Part I explains the nature of energy consumption data, the problems with not having such data readily available to consumers and policymakers, and the benefits associated with making it available to a wider range of potential users. Part II explores developing federal, state, and local policies governing energy consumption data, including how policymakers have attempted to address some of the privacy and other concerns associated with such data. Part III evaluates these efforts and attempts to provide guidance to policymakers on how to develop more robust regulatory frameworks to help capitalize on the potential energy efficiency benefits associated with increased collection, evaluation, and disclosure of energy consumption data.


Work published when author not on Michigan Law faculty.