Reflections about discussions on energy efficiency at the recent World Energy Council Congress

Energy efficiency got more coverage than normal at the recent World Energy Council Congress. It was helped by the IEA releasing its Energy Efficiency Market Report 2016. Ian Lewis writes on the Petroleum Economist website about some of the important discussions. It was written during the Congress that was held two weeks ago.


The challenge of energy efficiency

With all the talk of switching power generation from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives, it is easy to forget that the widespread adoption of energy efficiency measures is probably the most effective way to reduce power demand, and thus carbon emissions.

That is the starting point for one of WEC’s most important panel sessions- “Energy efficiency: accelerating progress”-which takes place today.

The session will tackle the substantial efforts still needed to deploy energy efficient technologies, urban design solutions and change the behaviour of individuals. Barriers to change will also come under scrutiny, such as fossil fuel subsidies, poor coordination of international standards-notably in the shipping and aviation sectors -and difficulties in bringing the interests of the owners, users and regulators into alignment.

The WEC, with its wide network of delegates, provides the ideal arena for important players from across the energy sector to work towards solutions to the complex issues involved, according to the session’s moderator, Pierre El Khoury, General Director of the Lebanese Centre for Energy Conservation and secretary of the WEC Lebanon Committee.

“The idea is to focus on key success stories in energy efficiency and the lessons learned in order to apply these worldwide,” he says. The COP21 climate change talks held in Paris last December, and recent meetings of G20 countries, have resulted in strong backing for greater adoption of energy efficiency measures.

Clear benefits

The advantages of greater implementation of energy efficiency measures are difficult to refute.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has concluded that, without the avoided consumption generated by efficiency investments between 1990 and 2014, the OECD countries assessed by the organisation would have emitted an additional 10.2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. Put another way, energy efficiency investments since 1990 avoided the consumption of 520m tonnes of oil equivalent in 2014.

Energy efficiency also makes sense from a financial point of view. Each additional $1 spent on energy efficiency in electrical equipment, appliances and buildings avoids more than $2, on average, in energy supply investments, the IEA estimates.

However, despite the clear benefits for the fight against global warming and for the world’s economic prosperity, annual energy intensity improvement around the world lags well below the 2.6% target for the 2010-30 period established by Sustainable Energy for All, a UN-backed platform for global action.

“The COP 21 Paris agreement put huge pressure on decision makers across the world to take concrete action in terms of energy efficiency, but progress remains far away from reaching the objective. We need to expand measures quickly and on a very big scale. Energy efficiency must be tackled with an international approach, not simply with a few applications here and there,” says El Khoury.

The need for a holistic approach to implementation of energy efficiency measures is reflected in the make-up of the panel for the WEC session.

El Khoury will be joined by Brian Motherway, head of energy efficiency at the IEA; Thorsten Herdan, director-general at Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy; Levent Taskin from privately owned engineering firm Danfoss; Bontha Prasada Rao, chairman of Indian state-owned engineering company BHEL and François Moisan, executive director of strategy at the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, ADEME.

The debate will cover two main strands: i) how to become more energy efficient on the consumers’ side, whether they be in the home or industry; and ii) how to improve energy efficiency in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity.

Hopeful progress

“The session will be rich because we will focus on energy efficiency from so many different perspectives across the private and public sectors,” says El Khoury.

Energy efficiency measures also need to be tailored to the differing requirements of countries with distinct economies.

“The approach to energy efficiency in developed and developing countries is different. For example, in most developed countries, a lot of energy efficiency improvement is achieved during the renovation of existing buildings and facilities. In developing countries, it should be easier, because you can implement efficiency measures at the concept and design stage because more new buildings are being built,” he says.

But much remains to be done: “Both developed and developing countries are lagging in terms of energy efficiency and huge efforts must be invested in on all sides,” says El Khoury.

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