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Energy efficiency policy needs to move faster says IEA

13/12/2023

Graphic of green leaf growing inside a light bulb Photo: Pixabay
Consistent and widespread efficiency gains are crucial to drive down emissions, according to the International Energy Agency – for example, universally switching to LED technology for lighting in the US could save enough energy to power 3 million electric vehicles per year or heat 2.6 million homes with heat pumps

Photo: Pixabay

Although policy makers around the world expanded measures to promote energy efficiency in 2023, helping consumers save money and improving the security and sustainability of the global energy system, progress is not moving fast enough to meet the world’s climate targets, according to a new International Energy Agency report.

The Energy Efficiency 2023 market report from the IEA finds that policy momentum for energy efficiency has continued to build following the global energy crisis set off by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  

 

Investments in efficiency have grown by 45% since 2020, and in the past year (2023), countries representing three-quarters of global energy demand have strengthened energy efficiency policies or introduced new ones. Key measures are also becoming more widespread. For example, almost all countries now have efficiency standards for air conditioners, and the number of countries with standards for industrial motors has tripled within the past decade.

 

However, the report suggests that global improvements in energy intensity – a primary measure of energy efficiency – slowed in 2023. This was the result of factors such as the economic rebound in energy-intensive sectors such as petrochemicals and aviation in some regions, as well as booming demand for air conditioning during what is on track to be the ‘hottest year on record’.

 

The slower global rate of efficiency improvements masks some strong gains at the national level. For example, after improving energy intensity by 8% in 2022, the European Union is set to post a 5% improvement this year. The US is also on track for a 4% improvement in 2023. Since the start of the energy crisis, more than 40 countries in total have improved energy efficiency at a rate of 4% or more for at least one year, according to the analysis.

 

The report notes that consistent and widespread efficiency gains are crucial to drive down emissions, especially given expectations for global growth in electricity demand. For example, universally switching to LED technology for lighting in the US could save enough energy to power 3 million electric vehicles per year or heat 2.6 million homes with heat pumps. The IEA believes doubling energy efficiency improvements by 2030 would lower global CO2 emissions by over 7bn tonnes, equivalent to the emissions from the entire transport sector worldwide today.

 

The IEA’s analysis has shown that to achieve net zero emissions from the energy sector by 2050, which is essential to limit global warming to the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C, annual improvements in energy efficiency need to double – rising from a level of 2% in 2022 to more than 4%/y on average between now and 2030. In 2023, global energy intensity improved by 1.3%, well below what is needed to achieve this target.

 

However, in a promising development some 118 countries made headline news at the start of COP28 with a commitment to double their rates of energy efficiency improvements by 2030. They also pledged to triple global renewable energy capacity this decade.