As 30 energy environment and trade ministers plus 50 CEOs assemble in Paris for the 8th international conference on energy efficiency, the International Energy Agency is urgently calling for greater investment in energy efficiency for factories, cars and appliances to meet international climate goals.
The agency touted recent global progress: A report released Wednesday says that demand for energy is growing, yet emissions are not growing as fast. As technology advances, efficiency increases every year. Last year’s increase was double the five-year average.
“We are at a turning point where cleaner, more energy-efficient technology that is more affordable and more accessible has begun to take over,” Brian Motherway said during a Tuesday press conference.
Eliminating wasted energy is the most affordable way to bring goods and services to the people who need them — while slowing greenhouse gas emissions — the main driver of global warming, energy experts say.
Government policies that encourage energy efficiency are driving the trend. Japan has strengthened laws that favor energy efficient buildings. The European Union agreed this year to reduce its total energy consumption by some 12% compared to its 2020 forecast, by improving buildings, heavy industry and private transportation. The United States allocated a record 95 billion dollars over ten years through the Inflation Reduction Act to increase energy efficiency in power generation, buildings and cars. And India passed important legislation to decrease the amount of energy used by homes.
“Government initiatives are critical because they get big buildings, they get big housing projects, they get industry (and) they have to take it seriously,” said Daniel Kammen, a professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley who was not involved in the IEA report.
According to the report, total public and private investment in energy efficiency increased by 15% in 2022 to $600 billion from the previous year. This year, investment is expected to grow by only 4%, which Motherway called concerning.
To limit global warming to just 1. 5 degrees Celsius (2. 7 degrees Fahrenheit) and avoid severe climate disruption, the world needs to double energy efficiency for the rest of the decade. Annual investment of $1. 8 trillion is needed to make that happen, the report says.
The technologies exist, but we need to prioritize spending. Philippe Delorme said at a Schneider Electric press conference.
Experts not involved in the report agreed. “Governments should be doing more, whether that relates to appliance efficiency, cars or buildings,” said Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
In terms of demand growth, oil and coal were just behind electricity. Demand for natural gas saw an overall decline.
Electric vehicles and heat pumps grew in popularity last year, adding to the demand for electricity. Heat pumps efficiently wring energy out of the air, or more occasionally, the ground, and they pump heat either into or out of a building depending whether they are heating or air conditioning. Their sales increased ten percent globally and nearly 40 percent in Europe last year. Electric vehicles sales also grew, now making up 14 percent of all new car sales, and are on track for 18 percent of the new car market this year.
In some places, the electricity used to power cars and heat homes is still derived from fossil fuels that emit carbon. As utilities increase their use of renewable energy sources, they reduce emissions. The same improvements are not made in gasoline-burning vehicles or homes which use natural gas to cook and heat. These cars will continue to burn hydrocarbons, releasing carbon dioxide.
Some of the recent interest in energy efficiency worldwide has been influenced by fears of a global energy shortage caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Philippe Benoit, a researcher at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, said that in order to meet climate goals, money needs to go into better energy efficiency even when there is no fear of energy scarcity.
” The greatest interest in improving energy efficiency often comes from a concern about energy supplies,” said Benoit. We need to reach a point, where governments, businesses and households are investing in energy-efficient measures without any potential crisis. That’s what our climate goal requires.”
Peterson reported from Denver. Costley reported from Washington, DC.
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