Northeastern and Midwestern states lack abundant supplies of oil and natural gas and their residents typically pay higher energy prices than those in energy-producing states. As a result, the development and deployment of energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies are particularly important to the Northeast-Midwest region. The Northeast-Midwest Institute works on a variety of fronts to advance innovative technologies and improve the region's efficiency.
The nation’s electricity system, while impressive, is not sufficient for the 21st century. Today’s average generating plant was built in 1964 using technology from the 1950s. Utilities have not improved their delivered efficiency in 50 years. With stagnant efficiency at 33 percent, we essentially burn three units of fuel to generate one unit of electricity. Put another way, two-thirds of the fuel burned to generate power is wasted. Electricity generators, moreover, are this nation’s largest polluters, spewing tons of mercury, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and other contaminants into America’s air and waters. Despite significant government and industry effort, 46 of the top 50 emitters are power plants. The consequences of the system’s inefficiencies and stresses are staggering, if little noticed. Unreliable supplies – ranging from millisecond fluctuations that destroy electronic equipment to the blackout of the 2003 summer that left 50 million people without power – are annually costing Americans more than $150 billion.
Policy makers need quality models if they are to effectively grapple with energy security, air pollution, and an array of related issues. The Northeast-Midwest Institute highlights how improvements to energy models can better inform policy analysis and discussions. Through peer-reviewed articles and meetings, the Institute engages policy analysts and policy makers, as well as economists, in discussions about how energy modeling can better highlight opportunities for policy innovations.
Energy use is the largest contributing factor to greenhouse gas emissions; therefore, focus needs to be placed on using energy more efficiently. Industry consumes more energy than any other sector in the United States, and the Northeast-Midwest region is home to many of the most energy-intensive base industries. Thus, improving energy efficiency in the industrial sector and the built environment can reap tremendous environmental benefits.