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New US motor efficiency standard will save $16bn

12 May, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has announced a new efficiency standard for electric motors that, it predicts, will save consumers nearly $16bn and reduce carbon emissions by 96 million tonnes in the period 2030. The new standard, which updates a 2010 version, will come into effect two years after it is published in the US Federal Register.

As well as the motors standard, the DoE has published a new efficiency standard for walk-in coolers and freezers, such as those used in supermarkets. It estimates that this will cut energy bills by a further $10bn and CO2 emissions by 62 million tonnes in the period to 2030.

Around five million motors are shipped in the US each year. The new measures affect motors of the type that consume about half of all the electricity used by industry in the US.

The US National Resources Defense Council estimates that, over 30 years, the new motor standard will save about seven quads of energy – equivalent to 2,051TWh, or enough to power every home in the US for a year. It will also save consumers around $23.3bn. The cumulative CO2 reductions of nearly 400 million tonnes are equivalent to taking 82.5 million cars off the road for a year.

The new standards were part of a package of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures announced by President Obama during a visit to a Walmart supermarket in California. Walmart, which already has more on-site solar power capacity than any other US company, is planning to double that capacity, with the aim of buying or producing 7TWh or renewable energy by 2020, saving it $1bn a year on its energy bills.

Shopping for savings: President Obama announced a raft of energy efficiency measures at a Walmart store in California
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

In June 2013, the President made energy efficiency standards a key of his Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce carbon pollution by more than three billion tonnes by 2030 – equivalent to a more than a year’s carbon emissions by the US electricity system. Since then, the DoE has issued nine proposed and five final energy efficiency standards.

The DoE says that, when combined with existing measures, the new standards will achieve almost 70% of the President’s target. It also estimates that as a result of efficiency measures introduced since 1990, a typical American household is currently saving about $225 a year on its energy bills. As home-owners replace older appliances with newer, more efficient models, the annual savings are expected to rise to more than $320 by 2030.

According to the DoE, the energy efficiency standards phased in by March 2014 will save 70 quads (20,514TWh) by 2020, and more than 120 quads (35,168TWh) by 2030. The cumulative savings on US energy bills will amount to more than $950bn by 2020, and $1,700bn by 2030.

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