Search eceee proceedings

Efficient technology in an inefficient economy

Panel: Panel 4: Human Dimensions

Jørgen S. Nørgård, Technical University of Denmark


The past two decades have revealed substantial potentials for reducing the use of energy by implementing more efficient n~!z&ugy, although only a small fraction has been implemented. In the long perspective, however, it is more important that the efficiency of the economy as a whole, interpreted as fulfillment of needs and wants with feast possible energy, tends to decrease.

The paper defines some concepts around overall efficiency for different categories of consumption: durable goods, non-durable goods, and services. Examples illustrate how efficiency options are ignored or even counteracted by the economic policy. A turn towards more consumption from the service sector results in higher efficiency only if it occurs in what is now the public service, and this is resisted politically. A promotion of longevity of goods could substantially increase enera efficiency, but will reduce GDP. Demand for more leisure is dominating over more income, which points towards reduction in energy consumption, but the trend is counteracted politically. Even cost effective options for more efficient electric technology seem unwelcome in a growth economy.

It is concluded that in general, overall energy efficiency in Europe is in conflict with a quest for economic growth, and that energy efficiency experts should face and tackle this problem.


Download this paper as pdf: Paper