09/18/2014 04:11 pm ET Updated Nov 18, 2014

Energy 2030: The Next Generation of Energy Policy

America sits at a crucial decision point that will affect its energy landscape far into the future. These are exciting times -- we are living in the midst of an energy boom. But the biggest game changer in this new era is one many Americans haven't heard of or don't fully understand -- improved national energy productivity. While the media is full of stories about the drastic expansion of the natural gas market and the potential of unlocked fossil resources, there is another energy revolution occurring. But the catalyst isn't renewable energy or newly discovered natural resource reserves. The real energy revolution is a massive improvement in energy efficiency and the vast potential for doubling energy productivity across all sectors by 2030.

According to the 2013 International Energy Agency (IEA) Energy Efficiency Market Report, "The reduced energy demand stemming from energy efficiency over the past decades is larger than any other single supply-side energy source for a significant share of IEA member countries." The report says that efficiency measures made since 1974 saved the equivalent of 1.5 billion tons of oil in 2010, more than the oil, electricity or natural gas used that year in the 11 IEA countries (including the United States) studied.

Every unit of energy we do not consume is a unit we don't have to pay for or extract. Energy efficiency is affordable, abundant, adaptable, widely deployable and constantly innovating, evolving and expanding into new applications. Perhaps the biggest game changer is the fact that traditional fuels are becoming uncompetitive with the ever bigger and cheaper reserve of unbought energy.

However, action is needed to further this exciting growth in energy productivity. As a country, we must establish policies that utilize energy efficiency as a valuable resource and encourage expanded deployment of energy efficiency measures and technologies.

The Alliance to Save Energy has worked for over 30 years on policies to promote energy efficiency as our most cost-effective, scalable and widely deployable resource that lessens environmental impacts, enhances energy reliability and lowers costs to society and consumers. Today, the United States is twice as energy efficient as it was in the 1970s. But we can go further:

In 2013, the Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy unveiled "Energy 2030" -- a roadmap for the next generation of energy policy with a goal of doubling U.S. energy productivity (dollars of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per unit of energy consumed) by the year 2030. Independent analysis has shown that meeting this goal could save Americans $327 billion in avoided energy costs, create 1.3 million U.S. jobs and reduce energy imports by over $100 billion in 2030, all while reducing emissions.

The Alliance is working across all levels of government to achieve this ambitious goal. The recommendations in the report are carefully crafted to be embraceable by all political parties. About half of the 54 Energy 2030 recommendations are directed at the federal government while the other half are focused on local and state governments and the private sector.

President Obama adopted the Energy 2030 goal in his 2013 State of the Union and called for the establishment of a $200 million challenge grant program to encourage states to double their energy productivity. At the national level, we are working with the Administration on its budgets, programs and initiatives to advance energy productivity policies. These policies include enhancing appliance efficiency standards, institutionalizing this new focus on energy productivity and the Better Buildings Initiative.

In Congress, energy productivity has emerged as a bipartisan sweet spot for energy issues. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Upton (R-MI) has adopted energy efficiency as one of his five energy policy pillars. We witnessed a remarkable event in the U.S. House of Representatives when an energy efficiency bill, sponsored by Alliance Honorary Vice-Chairs Reps. McKinley (R-WV) and Welch (D-VT), was adopted on a bipartisan vote of 375-36. We continue to push for Shaheen-Portman, a more robust version of that bill, to be brought to the Senate floor. Shaheen-Portman includes many provisions that respond to the Energy 2030 recommendations, and would deliver $16 billion in energy savings to the economy by 2030 while creating nearly 170,000 new jobs.

On the local and private sector side, the Alliance launched the "Energy 2030 On the Road" campaign in May 2014. We have had enormous success engaging policy makers from Washington, Nevada, California, Michigan and Georgia, with additional stops planned for New York, Kentucky, Texas and other states in the coming months. Over 90 city governments, private businesses and academic institutions have endorsed the goal of doubling energy productivity in their communities, and this is just the beginning!

Since the start of Energy 2030, we have seen a dramatic shift in the way our country talks about energy efficiency. Not only would achieving the Energy 2030 goal better the economy and create jobs, it would reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and move us towards energy independence. Doubling our nation's energy productivity is a win for our businesses, our government, our energy security, American consumers and the environment.