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Value of U.S. energy savings, 2010–2050


By Reinventing Fire, the U.S. economy can capture a net present value (2010) saving of $5 trillion. This net saving, shown here by end use, represents the sum of savings from end-use efficiency and a proportional share of savings associated with switching to an 80% renewable generation portfolio that has lower operational costs. These savings are netted out against efficiency’s capital investments and the proportional share of investment in the electricity system, prorated by each sector’s electricity consumption. Net shifts of investment to produce mobility fuels are also included, i.e., advanced-biofuel and hydrogen investments minus avoided oil-system investments.

Integrative design in the industrial and buildings sectors could greatly expand the net savings opportunity. In buildings, for instance, energy savings beyond the expected 38%—up to 70% or more—is achievable by employing integrative design principles. Since the cost of integrative design is sensitive to designers’ skill and experience, we have not tried to estimate its marginal costs, effectively assuming that integratively designed buildings and factories cost the same as traditionally designed ones, even though our own and others’ practice offers rich examples of substantially lower capital costs.

Our comparison does not count the many other benefits that accrue to society. These “positive externalities,” many well evaluated in the professional literature, include healthier and more productive people, lower fuel price risks, enhanced security, and reduced emissions. Counting them would strengthen Reinventing Fire’s business case.


RMI analysis