Thanks to energy-efficiency programs, America’s insatiable appetite for electricity could be curbed by as much as 22% over the next two decades. A recent analysis performed by the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) says that if key barriers can be addressed, the potential U.S. energy savings in 2030 would be 236 billion kilowatt-hours — equivalent to the annual electricity used by New York City 14 times over. Put another way, the demand for electricity over the next 20 years could be decreased from the 1.07% annual growth rate projected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its 2008 Annual Energy Outlook down to 0.83%.

According to the EPRI analysis, “Assessment of Achievable Savings Potential from Energy Efficiency and Demand Response in the U.S.,” under ideal circumstances favorable to energy-efficiency programs, the consumption growth rate could be further reduced to as low as 0.68% annually by 2030. Attaining this ideal, however, would necessitate costly investments and both political and regulatory support.

The report defines a realistic achievable figure that includes a forecast of probable customer behavior, taking into consideration existing market, societal, and attitudinal barriers as well as regulatory and program funding barriers. The barriers could reflect customers’ reluctance to doing more than the minimum required or a rejection of the attributes of the efficient technology.

A maximum achievable figure assumes a scenario of perfect customer awareness of utility- or agency-administered programs along with effective, fully funded program execution. The maximum achievable number includes the effect of customer rejection of efficiency technologies.

For its baseline assumptions, the EPRI study relied on EIA projections of growth in electricity consumption and peak demand for residential, commercial, and industrial sectors from the 2008 Annual Energy Outlook. View or download the EPRI report and its executive summary.