It’s time to unlock the United States’ energy efficiency potential


    September 19, 2023


    Opportunity and action are on the agenda at Climate Week NYC

    Climate Week NYC, an annual summit that takes place alongside the UN General Assembly kicked off this week, with an important theme: “We Can. We Will.”


    For several years, scientists, associations and businesses have been stating that the technologies to bend the curve on global emissions and global warming are available. This year’s weather anomalies have shown more clearly than ever the stark reality of climate change. “We Can. We Will.” is an urgent call to focus on solutions and actions rather than problems and complexities.


    While greenhouse gas reduction targets and regulatory frameworks are set at global and national levels, the transition to energy efficiency can take root at the state and municipal levels.

    With the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), there is currently a lot of focus on the supply side of the clean energy transition. This includes identifying alternative gas sources, scaling up renewables, and using nuclear and hydrogen as energy sources (though these will take longer to become viable).
    Complementary measures to create demand for both passive and active energy-efficiency technologies and solutions also -offer an important opportunity for significant and quick reductions of emissions as well as costs. Passive efficiency measures entail installing insulation and double or triple-glazing windows, while active efficiency measures include installing building management systems and changing the lights in the ceilings and streets. These measures can create jobs, while lowering energy bills and helping to improve comfort and safety.

    “The solutions to the current crisis are well-known and need to be rapidly scaled up. Clean electricity will be the backbone of the net-zero economy, enabling us to electrify almost everything which currently emits carbon,” explains Alice Steenland, Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer at Signify. “This, combined with energy-saving technologies, will mean we can go much further and faster than we are today. These developments can also help yield additional benefits, from cleaner air to improved living and workspaces.”


    Switching traditional light sources to energy-efficient LED or connected LED lighting is one easy area where states and cities can take action to quickly help reduce both emissions and costs. Road and street lighting as well as lighting in offices, schools, warehouses and factories, or other commercial and municipal buildings all present opportunities for upgrades.

    Approximately half of the world’s light points are still conventional. This shows that there is a significant potential for an LED transition in the coming years. Interestingly. states and cities would not only reduce their emissions and energy bills but, as the World Council on City Data showed some years ago, LED implementation can also reduce nighttime traffic incidents by around 30%, and street crime by around 20%.
    In the US, we estimate that replacing all conventional light sources with connected LED lighting would bring an annual reduction in 70 million tons of carbon emissions and save US$28 billion in energy costs. Those savings offer the potential to add capacity in energy networks for other purposes, most importantly, the electrification of transportation and heating. By transitioning all traditional light points to LED or connected lighting, the US could save enough energy to power almost 42 million heat pumps or charge 49 million electric vehicles per year.
    If we take New York State as an example of the effect at the state level, the numbers are equally significant and relevant. For example, a statewide switch to connected LED lighting offers the potential to save enough electricity to operate 2.6 million heat pumps or charge three million electric vehicles per year.
    US cities can reduce carbon emissions and costs, with connected LED lighting

    “The impact that energy efficiency has made and can make toward climate change mitigation is often overlooked and understated,” explains Paula Glover, President of the Alliance to Save Energy. “Were it not for the energy efficiency investments made since 1980, annual emissions would be nearly 80% higher than what they are currently. Additionally, the IEA estimates that energy efficiency alone can deliver 40% of the emission reductions required by the Paris Agreement.”


    But there’s more, says Glover: “The value of energy efficiency goes far beyond reducing carbon emissions—and includes billions of dollars in energy cost savings annually, in addition to adding greater reliability to US energy systems.

    As we invest in climate strategies that lead with energy efficiency first, we better define future capacity and supply needs; positively impact utility rates; lower energy costs behind the meter; drive emissions downward; and lay the foundation for a just energy transition.”


    Paula Glover

    President of the Alliance to Save Energy

    A cohesive energy transition plan built in this way can tap into the potential of energy efficiency. Renewables and energy efficiency combined can create a transition to a decarbonized society that is twice as fast and twice as cheap, because the energy being generated is not being wasted in offsetting fossil fuels. Instead, it is going much further in powering more efficient homes and buildings.

    There is more positive news. “The IRA and the bipartisan IIJA provided a monumental boost to energy efficiency funding,” said Lisa Jacobson, President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. “Notably, the pair of legislation provided US$3.5 billion to weatherize homes in underserved communities and US$8.8 billion for home energy-efficiency rebates, among other energy-efficiency incentives. These incentives are crucial for driving down energy costs for consumers, reducing US carbon emissions and building resilient electrical grids."


    When delegates arrive in New York for this year’s week of climate deliberations, they need to keep this year’s theme of “We Can. We Will.” at the top of their minds. We need the world’s largest economy to accelerate rapid and positive change, and not only unlock the potential of energy efficiency but also decisively turn climate action into a race for the net-zero future that we need today and that future generations deserve.

    Find out how you can make the Green Switch, and help meet your carbon reduction targets.
    Listen to this article, and discover other topic related blog podcasts, here.

    About the author:

    Harry Verhaar

    Harry Verhaar

    Head of Public & Government Affairs, Signify

    For further information, please contact:

    Signify Global Media relations - Professional Lighting
    Claire Phillips

    Tel: +44 7956 489081


    For commercial enquiries:

    About Signify


    Signify (Euronext: LIGHT) is the world leader in lighting for professionals, consumers and the Internet of Things. Our Philips products, Interact systems and data-enabled services, deliver business value and transform life in homes, buildings and public spaces. In 2023, we had sales of EUR 6.7 billion, approximately 32,000 employees and a presence in over 70 countries. We unlock the extraordinary potential of light for brighter lives and a better world. We have been in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index since our IPO for seven consecutive years and have achieved the EcoVadis Platinum rating for four consecutive years, placing Signify in the top one percent of companies assessed. News from Signify can be found in the Newsroom, on X, LinkedIn and Instagram. Information for investors is located on the Investor Relations page.

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