Analysis of Trends in Residential Energy Consumption

EMD-81-74: Published: Jul 9, 1981. Publicly Released: Jul 9, 1981.

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GAO analyzed the underlying trends in U.S. residential energy use in terms of the physical factors which determine that use. Estimates of future consumption were made on the basis of maintaining current levels of service, with some additional services included because recent trends suggest that they are likely to be demanded. The estimate of trends in U.S. residential energy use in the study were an attempt to provide a reasonable and prudent basis for national energy planning and comparative analyses of individual policies and programs affecting future residential energy use in the United States. A set of scenarios indicates the effects of alternative trends, policies, or programs. This approach is intended to describe the basic physical and technical factors which would underlie econometric descriptions.

Net energy consumption in the residential sector is projected to achieve essentially zero growth in the latter part of the century despite an approximate 40-percent increase in the number of households. While gross residential energy requirements are projected to continue to increase during the 1977-1985 period, the rate will be slower than in the past. Gross consumption increases faster than net consumption because it includes the losses associated with electricity, and the projection shows a continuation of trends toward increased electrification of the residential sector. Despite this substantial reduction in growth of energy use, a comparison of projected energy consumption with a previous GAO study indicates that the residential sector may still create pressure for additional oil imports throughout the 1980's because the decline in U.S. production of these fuels is projected to be faster than the decline of their use in homes. Heating of homes already built will continue to be the greatest consumer of residential energy throughout the balance of the century. Improvements by the construction and appliance manufacturing industries will continue to upgrade the efficiency of energy use in new homes and in nonheating uses. Major uncertainties concerning the extent to which the private sector will respond to realize gains in heating efficiency in existing homes indicate that the improvement in this area should be the focus of Government policy attention in the residential sector.

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