IEA Energy Efficiency Market Report 2016: Key Takeaways for the Commercial Real Estate Sector

By Anna Kudrnova, Junior Sustainability Consultant, EVORA

About 10 days ago, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released the long awaited Energy Efficiency Market Report 2016, confirming the agency’s growing support for energy efficiency policies and initiatives worldwide. One of the key themes of the report was the emphasis on the critical contribution that energy efficiency can make to broader energy policy goals.

With investment in energy efficiency in 2015 reaching $221 billion and energy intensity improving by 1.8% in the same year, the IEA confirmed that energy efficiency initiatives have reached a sufficient scale to influence global energy markets. The energy intensity improvement seen in 2015 amounts to triple the average rate seen over the past decade, which is a considerable advance, especially in the context of relatively low energy prices. The progress so far should, however, be seen in the context long term targets – as the IEA emphasizes, substantial further improvements will be required to ensure a smooth and timely transition to a sustainable energy system. Particular emphasis is given to the implementation of policy in areas which are either not regulated or subject to inadequate policies.

Given that an estimated 70% of global energy consumption is not subject to any efficiency requirements at present, the scope for improvement is substantial.

The regulation of previously unregulated areas of energy consumption is, however, not the only way to achieve substantial improvements. While the report analyses energy efficiency in the context of a wide range of sectors (e.g. energy intensive industries, light-duty vehicles, rail, shipping and aviation, envelope, lighting, appliances) the real estate sector clearly stands out. In 2015, the real estate sector (commercial, industrial and residential buildings) accounted for 53% of global incremental investments into energy efficiency; more than the next two largest sectors (transport and industry), combined.

Energy efficiency as the fuel of economic development

The report takes an interesting approach to energy efficiency, prompting readers to think about it as the “first fuel” - an energy resource which is available to all energy system stakeholders in abundance and whose integration into energy development strategies can yield varied but important savings and benefits. The IEA highlights energy efficiency as a means to reduce emissions, help tackle air pollution concerns and climate change, but also praises it for its capability to lower energy expenditure. The report also places a lot of focus on the ways in which energy efficiency can help satisfy growing energy demand, improve energy access and energy security and ultimately contribute to economic resilience and the betterment of living standards. The priorities and goals of stakeholders committing to energy efficiency schemes will inevitably vary based on their specific circumstances.

The main achievement of the Energy Efficiency Market Report 2016 is that it manages to bridge the gap between sectors and stakeholders by portraying energy efficiency as a tool which can not only help deliver existing energy and climate goals but also bring about a broader range of the positive impacts such as those listed above.

Key takeaways for the commercial real estate sector

While being subject to a wide range of energy efficiency policies (including Energy Performance Certificates, Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards and Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme in the UK), the commercial real estate sector retains significant potential for further improvement.

On the one hand, energy expenditure in commercial real estate office buildings, for example, usually accounts for a large share of building service charge costs, providing a strong bottom-up incentive to improve energy efficiency. On the other hand, commercial real estate buildings make up a high share of global energy consumption and are also seen as having a wide range of energy savings opportunities, which raises their importance in the eyes of policy-makers. The combination of these top-down and bottom-up factors is a growing interest in the pursuit of energy efficiency in the sector.

What renders the commercial real estate sector truly unique is the range of market-driven certification, assessment and benchmarking initiatives which set an ever increasing industry standard for resource management and efficiency.

Initiatives such as BREEAM, LEED, HQE, ENERGY STAR and GRESB all reinforce incentives for stakeholders to measure and improve energy performance. Moreover, while energy management only constitutes one aspect evaluated in many of these initiatives, the identification and redressing of inefficiencies can go hand in hand with a stakeholder’s ability to attain higher scores.

So how can commercial real estate assets progress towards their potential for energy efficiency?

Our recommendation is to start with a robust measurement and analysis strategy which can, for instance, be undertaken as part of an asset and/or portfolio energy assessment aligned to standards such as ISO 50001. Such an approach is established on the basis of improving accuracy and completeness of energy consumption data which is fundamental in identifying potential areas to enhance energy management and improve efficiency. Analysis can then form the basis of meaningful performance improvement targets and ongoing monitoring and reporting to ensure continued progress. Such ongoing, documented processes will support in voluntary reporting to indices and certification, which can in turn provide an incentive for further improvements.

The growing interest and participation we have witnessed in voluntary certification, assessment and benchmarking initiatives, such as GRESB, are certainly a very good indicator of the commercial real estate sector’s engagement in energy management.


To gain more insight into the ways in which commercial real estate assets can benefit from becoming more energy efficient, refer to one of the following case studies:

For any other questions and to find out how we can help your organisation, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


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