Despite improvement in global energy intensity in 2015 thanks to energy efficiency policies, global progress is still too slow, and more vigorous policies are required if climate targets are to be achieved.
A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) published on Monday highlights the progress that has been made around the world improving energy efficiency policies, especially in countries like China and other emerging economies. Global energy intensity improved in 2015 by 1.8%, surpassing the 1.5% gain seen in 2014 and tripling the annual rate of 0.6% seen in the previous decade. The report specifically points to lower energy prices, such as crude oil falling by as much as 60% since 2014.
However, despite good global progress, the report warns that what progress we have achieved is still too slow if we are to meet our global climate targets. Specifically, the IEA analysis concludes annual energy intensity improvements must rise to at least 2.6%.
Global Annual Change in Energy Intensity
“Energy efficiency is the one energy resource that all countries possess in abundance,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “I welcome the improvement in global energy efficiency, particularly at a time of lower energy prices. This is a sign that many governments push the energy efficiency policies, and it works.”
The report, Energy Efficiency Market Report 2016, analyzed the role of energy efficiency in the global energy transition. Energy intensity is used as a key measurement of the improvements in energy efficiency, representing the amount of energy used per unit of GDP (gross domestic product). Despite lower energy prices in 2015, which the authors of the report note usually dampen enthusiasm for energy savings, energy efficiency policies helped to improve energy intensity.
However, energy intensity did not decline uniformly across the globe in 2015, concentrating primarily in emerging and developing countries which saw improvement of 2.5%. Industrialized countries only experienced a 2% improvement. Looking forward, the report similarly divides up the workload, with average annual intensity improvements between now and 2030 sitting at 3.7% required in countries outside the OECD, and 2.2% for those inside the OECD.
Importantly, it is China that is driving energy intensity improvement, with a 5.6% increase in 2015, up from an average of 3.1% per year over the preceding decade. Further, Chinese primary energy demand increased by only 0.9% in 2015, the lowest level since 1997, despite the fact that the country’s economy grew by 6.9%.