Energy efficiency slowing down despite growing Government involvement

Global progress on energy efficiency has slowed down despite more countries implementing policies to drive improvements, according to a new report by the World Energy Council.

The report, World Energy Perspective: Energy Efficiency Policies, shows that more and more countries are now involved in energy efficiency policies, but highlights factors that have affected energy efficiency progress across 85 countries, representing more than 90% of global consumption.

Produced in collaboration with France’s energy and environment agency, ADEME, the report finds that Europe’s progression is being offset by the high energy intensity of countries such as China, Africa and the Middle East.

Western Europe currently boasts the lowest energy intensity, while the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has the highest of the large consumer regions, using more than three times more energy per unit of GDP than Europe.

China, Africa and the Middle East all see intensity at two times the European average, while Latin America and OECD Asia Pacific are around 15% higher. India and other Asian countries see their intensity at around 50% higher than Europe, with North America at around 1.45 times the European average.

High energy intensities can be attributable to a number of factors: industry structure, low energy prices, and share of energy intensive industries, for example.

Announcing the findings at the World Energy Congress today in Korea, François Moisan, executive director of ADEME and chair of the report, commented: “Our latest study shows the increased extent that most governments are concerned about energy efficiency. About 80% of the countries surveyed have quantitative efficiency targets, while six years ago only 40% had such targets”.

Moisan added that labels and standards for energy efficiency appliances are implemented in all OECD countries and in 90% of Asian countries, while regulations on energy-consuming equipment and buildings remain the most common measures deployed.

“The progress in energy efficiency over the past 20 years equated to one-third of global primary energy consumption in 2011,” said Moisan.

Secretary General of the World Energy Council, Christoph Frei, said that the slowdown in energy efficiency improvements must be reversed if future progress was to be made on a stable, sustainable basis.

“Energy demand continues to grow, albeit largely against a slowing trajectory. However, the rate of decline in energy intensity has reduced at a much sharper rate. While an uncertain investment outlook, created by the global economic crisis, explains a degree of this decline, more worrying is the growth in certain uses of energy such as household electricity and road transport.

“This problem is compounded by continually rising energy demand, driven by non-OECD growth where energy intensity is higher than in most OECD countries.”

However, most countries have significantly reduced total energy use per unit of GDP over the last three decades, the study finds.

The improvements are largely attributable to more efficient key end-uses, such as vehicles, appliances, space heating and industrial processes.

New standards, educational campaigns and regulatory requirements have helped to move efficiency development forward and have contributed to improved energy efficiency in OECD nations.

Technology development, response to rising energy prices, and growing competition in industries, have also forced companies to cut energy costs.

Last month, the WEC called for more progress on unlocking the potential of energy efficiency to deliver energy and carbon savings.

Leigh Stringer

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