IEA reports large energy efficiency gains but calls for accelerated efforts

(ACEEE blog, 23 Oct 2018) Energy-saving efforts continue to deliver vast gains, but their progress is slowing and will need at least a doubling of investment in order to reach global sustainability goals, according to the International Energy Agency’s new Energy Efficiency 2018 market report, released last week.

The sixth annual report by the IEA, a Paris-based organization formed and led by 30 developed countries, includes striking data on the value of energy efficiency. While global energy use has grown by a third since 2000, the figure below shows that the increase would have been more than 50% greater without efficiency.

Changes in global energy use 2000-2017 and results of decomposition analysis on contributions to these changes.

However, while efficiency savings are substantial, the IEA finds that the rate of improvement is slowing. The chart below shows that global energy intensity (energy use per unit GDP) fell by 2.5% in 2011, but that the rate of improvement slowed to 1.7% in 2017, and would have dipped even more, to 1.2%, if the 3.9% improvement in China were not included.

Changes in global energy intensity, 2011-2017 from the IEA report.

The IEA finds that much more efficiency savings are possible in its “Efficient World Scenario” (EWS), which includes improved efficiency policies and increased investments. In the EWS, as illustrated below, global energy efficiency savings increase more than three-fold relative to 2017 savings. The largest savings are in the transport sector, but substantial savings can also be found in the buildings and industrial sectors. The scenario only includes current technologies but assumes very aggressive implementation of them; on balance it seems a reasonable projection of the achievable global potential savings.

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ACEEE blog, 23 Oct 2018: IEA reports large energy efficiency gains but calls for accelerated efforts