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Call for urgently needed improvements in energy efficiency


Light switch with carbon emission reminder Photo: Jasmin Sessler, Unsplash
Doubling the current rate of energy intensity improvement from 2% to just over to 4% per year over the next decade could help avoid an extra 5 Gt/y of emissions by 2030, according to the IEA

Photo: Jasmin Sessler, Unsplash

Faster action on energy efficiency could cut energy use by the equivalent of China’s total demand, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

With the world contending with its biggest energy crisis since the 1970s, how to implement measures quickly to reduce energy use is the focus of new analysis by the IEA. The value of urgent action on energy efficiency report underscores the vital role of energy efficiency and energy saving in meeting today’s crises by immediately addressing the crippling impacts of the spike in energy prices, strengthening energy security and tackling climate change.


According to the analysis, doubling the current global rate of energy intensity improvement to 4%/y has the potential to avoid 95 EJ/y of final energy consumption by the end of this decade, compared with a pathway based on today’s policy settings – equivalent to the current annual energy use of China. That level of savings would reduce global CO2 emissions by an additional 5bn t/y by 2030, about a third of the total emissions reduction efforts needed this decade to move the world onto a pathway to net zero emissions by mid-century, as laid out in the Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap published by the IEA last year.


The study has found that these extra efficiency efforts would cut global spending on energy. For example, households alone could save as much as $650bn/y on energy bills by the end of the decade compared with what they would have spent in a pathway based on today’s policy settings. The amount of natural gas that the world would avoid using as a result of this would be equal to four times what the European Union imported from Russia last year, while the reduced oil consumption would be almost 30mn b/d of oil, about triple Russia’s average production in 2021. Compared to today, this global push on efficiency would help create 10mn additional jobs in fields ranging from building retrofits to manufacturing and transport infrastructure.


There are significant opportunities for rapid energy efficiency gains in all sectors of the global economy, according to the IEA. Most of these opportunities involve readily available technologies and would fully pay for themselves through lower running costs, especially at today’s high energy prices. By 2030, around a third of the avoided energy demand comes from deploying more efficient equipment, ranging from air conditioners to cars.


Electrification provides around 20%, for example through replacing fossil fuel boilers with more efficient heat pumps, switching to electricity for low temperature heat in industry, and faster adoption of electric vehicles. Behaviour change provides a further 18% through measures such as turning down thermostats and changing travel patterns. Other measures such as digitalisation and material efficiency provide the remaining third. This includes avoided energy from digitalisation such as through the adoption of smart controls as well as material efficiency measures including the increased recycling of plastics and scrap steel.


Commenting on the report, Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director, says: ‘Energy efficiency is a critical solution to so many of the world’s most urgent challenges – it can simultaneously make our energy supplies more affordable, more secure and more sustainable. But inexplicably, government and business leaders are failing to sufficiently act on this. The oil shocks of the 1970s set in motion major advances in efficiency, and it is utterly essential that efficiency is at the heart of the response to today’s global energy crisis.’