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Energy Efficiency Thermal heat-loss in residential building
Image Credit: Cambridge Carbon Institute

Published on October 25th, 2013 | by James Ayre

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Energy Efficiency Is The World’s Most Important “Fuel,” IEA Says In New Report

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October 25th, 2013 by  

Energy efficiency is the world’s most important “fuel,” according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). Investments in energy efficiency provide such massive savings that the energy saved actually completely eclipses the energy generated by most forms of generation. This “first fuel” is incredibly important to the world’s efforts to reduce fossil fuel use and carbon emissions and should be focused on even more, the new report argues.

The Energy Efficiency Market Report, as its known, states that “the scale of recent investment in energy efficiency worldwide makes it as significant in its contribution to energy demand as investment in renewable energy or fossil fuel generation.”

Energy Efficiency

Thermal heat-loss in residential building Image Credit: Cambridge Carbon Institute

Thermal heat-loss in residential building.
Image Credit: Cambridge Carbon Institute


“Energy efficiency has been called a ‘hidden fuel’, yet it is hiding in plain sight,” stated IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven. “Indeed, the degree of global investment in energy efficiency and the resulting energy savings are so massive that they beg the following question: is energy efficiency not just a hidden fuel but rather the world’s first fuel?”

The report notes that, worldwide, in 2011, energy efficiency schemes attracted about $300 billion in investment funds — which puts it on about the same level as global investments in fossil-fuel power generation or renewable energy.

PV-Tech provides more:

Between 2005 and 2010, the IEA calculated that energy efficiency measures across 11 of its member countries (Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States) saved the energy equivalent of US$420 billion worth of oil.

In these same countries, the IEA said that were it not for energy efficiency measures implemented in the past three years, consumers would be using and paying for two-thirds more energy than is the case. Overall, in 2010 energy savings from efficiency measures exceeded the output from any other single fuel source in these same countries, with the 11 IEA countries avoiding burning 1.5 billion tonnes of oil equivalent thanks to efficiency improvements developed since 1974.

The report notes that the driving force behind this huge increase in energy efficiency investment and adoption is, simultaneously, the implementation of effective policies and the rising price of energy, especially oil. With the price of fossil fuels rising, there really isn’t much choice for many governments/businesses/individuals but to be more energy efficient.

Brian Smithers, the strategic director for Northern Europe at the UK-based renewable energy products and services distributor Rexel, states:

It’s about time the role of energy efficiency was recognized on a global scale, so it’s great to see the IEA placing it alongside traditional as well as renewable fuels. However, if we are to shift the perception of energy efficiency from a ‘hidden fuel’ to the world’s ‘first fuel’ we need to invest in education.

In the UK, for example, there is a huge lack of awareness around energy efficiency, which is seriously hampering our progress against carbon reduction targets. To put it simply, to meet the UK’s carbon reduction targets by 2050, we need to improve one home every minute, equating to 26 million refurbished energy-efficient homes by 2050.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • Roy Wagner

    If your organisation is considering implementing energy efficiency measures, I would be glad to discuss your options and what we at D A Global Energy inc can do for you. Including totally funding the project from the energy savings we can provide.
    http://www.daglobalenergy.com roywwagner@gmail.com

  • Pieter Siegers

    You’re damned right energy efficiency is a number one key to reduce our carbon footprint but looking forward eventually the net energy use on this planet could rise again, so it’s inevitable to change ASAP to renewables.

  • Luis Humberto Vanegas Niño

    Amory Lovins (today at Rocky Mountain Institute) said it on the 70’s the cheapest energy is the one it doesn’t need to be produced the “NEGAWATT” (1989)

  • RobS

    When I had my solar panels installed they initially produced about 50% of my consumption, swapping my most heavily used downlights out for LEDs increased that to 60% self production, replacing my electric storage hot water system for a heat pump unit took it up to 85%. Hoping that a planned upgrade to my reverse cycle heat pump unit will take it up to 100%. Most homes can halve their energy usage which essentially doubles the benefit of any installed solar, applied at a mass scale the same is true of the whoie grid, already installed renewables can double their effective contribution by the implementation of deep efficiency measures.

    • Pieter Siegers

      Excellent story Rob that’s the attitude we need on this planet!

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