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Energy efficiency is the first fuel, and demand for it needs to grow

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The global economy is set to double in size over the next 20 years. But that does not mean it will need twice as much energy to power all the extra cars, homes and factories such growth will bring. By taking the available opportunities to become more energy efficient, we would need only the same amount of energy we use today. The result would be a global economy with reduced emissions, lower pollution and enhanced energy security – we would live more comfortable lives and receive lower energy bills.


In order to make this scenario a reality and to put the world on track to meeting our international climate targets, efficiency must be at the forefront of global policy-making. And yet we are headed in the opposite direction. What we are actually witnessing is an alarming slowdown in global efficiency progress. In fact, last year saw the slowest improvement rate this decade.


How can we scale up and speed up action on all fronts to see more efficient technologies deployed and more efficient behaviours take hold? This is the question the Global Commission is tackling.


The focus of the Commission’s deliberations was on people and the narratives that can engage them. Efficiency is a means to other ends, such as environmental or economic gains. The current push by people around the world for stronger climate action and waste reduction is a great opportunity to get more movement on efficiency. The economic benefits can also help bring governments along. More investment in efficiency creates new jobs. And for many, a message about well-being and comfort in our daily lives is much more appealing than a discussion of kilowatt hours and payback periods.


IEA analysis shows a clear correlation between policies and results. Where good policies are put in place, efficiency gains are made. Without them, efficiency stalls. Therefore, government action is key – provided it is taken by the government as a whole. Energy ministers do not usually have control over building standards, transport planning or tax policy. But all of these domains, and many more, help determine efficiency outcomes. Only a determined, cross-government approach can deliver efficiency gains.


Experience suggests that a set of policies driven by long-term strategies and targets is more effective than individual, isolated ones. A holistic set of policies – from research to incentives and regulation – has made China the world leader in electric vehicle deployment. Europe is making progress on efficiency in buildings through a suite of measures that sets out a clear trajectory and gives strong signals to the market.


Read the full article here.