IEA: Energy efficiency is the cornerstone for building a sustainable energy system
Written by Editors of Electric Light & Power/ POWERGRID International, elp.com, October 19, 2018
A global effort to deploy the right energy efficiency policies could, on its own, see greenhouse gas emissions peak quickly and then fall even as the global economy doubles between now and 2040, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest analysis on energy efficiency.
Energy Efficiency 2018 examines the opportunities for improving global energy efficiency to 2040, and finds that efficiency gains alone could allow the world to extract twice as much economic value from the energy it uses compared to today. Doing so would reduce energy bills for consumers by more than $500 billion dollars per year, lower energy imports and cut air pollution in cities – a key issue for many countries.
The report sets out a vision for 2040 with 60 percent more building space and 20 percent more people, and double global GDP, while using only marginally more energy than today and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent.
Delivering this vision requires an immediate step up in policy action. For example, countries would need to continue to push up the efficiency of both cars and trucks, building on the progress made in recent years.
Another priority is the efficiency of air conditioners, as highlighted in the IEA’s recent report The Future of Cooling. This demonstrated that air conditioners could be twice as efficient as they are today with the right policies in place. Global investment in energy efficiency will need to rise significantly, but this investment will pay back threefold through energy savings alone.
This new analysis comes in the wake of the new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that reminds us that global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak quickly and then decline for the world to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement. Energy efficiency and bioenergy – two areas where the IEA has been shining a light recently – are both critical to this effort.
Energy Efficiency 2018 outlines a global strategy focused on what governments can do to capture the economic, social and environmental benefits of enhanced energy efficiency. IEA’s global analysis of energy efficiency has identified the key actions that can deliver the most positive impact. This includes improving the efficiency of buildings and industry. It also highlights the importance of areas such as aviation and shipping, where energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important.
“While various countries are endowed with different energy resources – whether it’s oil, gas, wind, solar or hydropower – every single country has energy efficiency potential,” said Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “Efficiency can enable economic growth, reduce emissions and improve energy security. Our study shows that the right efficiency policies could alone enable the world to achieve more than 40 percent of the emissions cuts needed to reach its climate goals without requiring new technology. Thanks to the critical importance of energy efficiency in building a secure and sustainable future, the IEA considers it the ‘first fuel’ and facilitates the exchange of best practices among advanced and emerging economies.”
Recent trends show that policy efforts have weakened in recent years. In other words, the improvements in energy efficiency that were seen in recent years are now slowing down as fewer new standards and policies were introduced in the past two years. This has contributed to the acceleration in energy demand growth that was observed in 2017.
This weakening of efficiency progress is concerning at a time when global energy demand is growing, especially as the new IEA analysis shows just how much potential gains remain. To answer this question, the report asks what would happen if all energy efficiency opportunities were taken up. All the opportunities identified are fully cost effective and use only technologies already available today.
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