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Energy efficiency key to global emissions reduction – IEA

If the right energy efficiency policies were enacted globally this could on its own see greenhouse gas emissions peak in the next few years and then drop – even if the global economy doubled by 2040.

This is the headline finding of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) latest analysis on energy efficiency – an energy resource the IEA describes as a cornerstone of the global energy system.

The agency’s
Energy Efficiency 2018 report examines the opportunities for improving global energy efficiency to 2040, and finds that efficiency gains alone could allow the world to extract twice as much economic value from the energy it uses in 2040 compared to today.

Putting the right policies in place for energy efficiency to achieve this would lower energy bills by more than $500bn per year, says the report, as well as lowering energy imports and cutting air pollution in cities.

The report’s central ‘Efficient World Scenario’ sets out a vision for 2040 with 60% more building space and 20% more people, and double the current global GDP, but which uses only marginally more energy than today and which cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 12%.

An ‘immediate step up in policy action’ on energy efficiency is needed to realise this vision, says the report. This extends beyond buildings and across the economy including into cars and trucks, aviation and shipping and industrial sectors.

Global investment in energy efficiency will need to rise significantly, but this investment will pay back threefold through energy savings alone, says the report. The IEA also stresses the need to improve the efficiency of air conditioning units around the world, stating that
they could be twice as efficient as today with the right policies in place.

But the report comes as recent trends show that energy efficiency policy efforts have weakened in recent years, due to fewer new standards and policies being introduced. This has contributed to the acceleration in the energy demand growth (and associated emissions) that was observed in 2017. This weakening of efficiency progress is concerning at a time when global energy demand is growing, says the IEA.

‘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. ‘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 US-based American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) welcomed the report, stating that energy efficiency remains a vastly untapped resource around the world. Its
International Energy Efficiency Scorecard highlights efficiency progress and its potential worldwide, and its recent US-focused scorecard shows that US states are progressing energy efficiency measures despite rollbacks on a federal level.

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