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Energy Efficiency is Waning, But Could Quickly Drive Down Emissions, IEA Analysis Shows

W.L. Tarbert/Wikimedia Commons

Countries are falling behind on energy efficiency policies that would be enough to peak greenhouse gas emissions quickly and then drive them down, even if the global economy doubles through 2040, according to a new analysis released last week by the International Energy Agency.

Thanks to the critical importance of energy efficiency in building a secure and sustainable future, the IEA considers it the ‘first fuel’,” said Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Efficiency can enable economic growth, reduce emissions, and improve energy security. Our study shows that the right efficiency policies could alone enable the world to achieve more than 40% of the emissions cuts needed to reach its climate goals, without requiring new technology.

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Energy Efficiency 2018 concludes that “efficiency gains alone could allow the world to extract twice as much economic value from the energy it uses compared to today,” the IEA states in a release. “Doing so would reduce energy bills for consumers by more than US$500 billion per year, lower energy imports, and cut air pollution in cities—a key issue for many countries.”

The Paris-based agency models a 2040 world with 60% more building space, 20% more people, and twice the global GDP that uses “only marginally more energy than today” and has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 12%.

Yet the IEA’s trend analysis also points to a decline in national energy efficiency policies in recent years. “This weakening of efficiency progress is concerning at a time when global energy demand is growing, especially as the new IEA analysis shows just how much potential gains remain,” the agency states. Yet “all the opportunities identified are fully cost-effective and use only technologies already available today.”

With a focus on buildings, industry, aviation, and shipping, the report “outlines a global strategy focused on what governments can do to capture the economic, social, and environmental benefits of enhanced energy efficiency,” the IEA states.