The International Energy Agency has claimed that a string of the right energy efficiency policies implemented around the globe could, on its own, result in the peaking of greenhouse gas emissions followed quickly by a global decline even as the global economy doubles.
Writing in a report earlier this month, entitled Energy Efficiency 2018, the International Energy Agency (IEA) examined the global opportunities for improving energy efficiency through to 2040 and found that gains in energy efficiency would allow the world’s economies to extract twice as much economic value from the energy it produces and uses than it does today. Specifically, the IEA claims that such a move would reduce energy bills for consumers by more than $500 billion per year, decrease energy imports, and reduce air pollution in cities.
Currently, however, there is a battle going on between explosive increasing energy demand and steadily increasing energy efficiency. According to the report, global energy demand grew by 2% in 2017 after two years of low growth, while global energy intensity only fell by 1.7%, the smallest annual improvement this decade. But the report is quick to note that “demand would be much higher if not for progress on energy efficiency.” Specifically, according to the IEA, improvements in energy efficiency in the world’s major economies since 2000 have “offset more than one-third of the increase in energy-using activities.” Globally, improvements in energy efficiency since 2000 have offset 12% of energy use.
The report doubles-down on the ‘Efficient World Scenario’ (EWS) which was developed for the IEA’s World Energy Outlook report and which envisages 60% more building space, 20% more people, and double global GDP, but with energy efficiency measures implemented only uses marginally more energy than today, and cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 12% after it peaks before 2020. All that is required is that “all available energy efficiency measures” are implemented “between now and 2040.”
“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% 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.”
The required measures include everything from increasing the efficiency of cars and trucks as well as implementing the right policies for air conditioners.
“The IEA is working actively with Governments across the world to enact the right policies for enhancing energy efficiency,” said Dr Birol. “We know there is an appetite for focused solutions, and this is what the ‘Efficient World Strategy’ offers. We look forward to working with countries to deliver the benefits of energy efficiency, and we call on governments to prioritise the actions that can help them meet their energy and climate goals.”