Energy efficiency at heart of global push to net zero

This is a good summary from Energy in Buildings & Industry about the recent IEA report outlining the roadmap to net zero.


Energy-efficiency measures are “front-loaded” in the IEA’s new roadmap to net zero

The International Energy Agency’s new roadmap to net zero by 2050 has identified energy efficiency as its’ first “key pillar of decarbonisation”, with “behavioural change” as the next greatest priority.

The roadmap has made headlines throughout the world, coming as it does from an organisation specifically created by world governments following worldwide shortages of oil following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. According to the IEA’s head, Fatih Birol, it “ shows the energy future we all need to focus on”. He describes it as “one of the most important reports in our agency’s nearly 50-year history”.

To achieve net zero by 2050 with global equity, the amount of energy used by the global economy will need to fall 8% by 2050 – despite a doubling of GDP, a population rise of more than two billion people and the provision of universal energy access by 2030.

The IEA maintains this roadmap will deliver “a net increase of nearly 9 million jobs” .Plus  there would also be another 16m jobs created “by changes in spending on more efficient appliances, electric and fuel cell vehicles, and building retrofits and energy-efficient construction”. This brings the total net increase to 25m jobs.

The roadmap underscores that this decade is pivotal to reaching net-zero by mid-century. “We need to put emissions into sharp decline in the coming years through strong and credible energy policies,” warns Birol.

The IEA emphasises that energy-efficiency measures are “front-loaded” in the roadmap, playing a big role over the next decade. It includes “immediate and rapid improvements” in the world’s building stock, resulting from large-scale programmes in which around 2.5% of buildings in richer nations are retrofitted each year until 2050. The current retrofit rate is way below 1%.

There would be a 2% annual rate of retrofits in emerging and developing countries. By 2050 more than 85% of world buildings would be zero-carbon ready, meaning they would be entirely energy-efficient and ready to be powered by renewables. Many nations’ “green recovery” “plans have included significant sums of money for home retrofits. However, as the UK government’s recently abandoned Green Homes Grant has made horrendously clear, such programmes require careful coordination to minimise disruption and ensure uptake, something the IEA warns about in its’ report.

The agency states categorically that any delay to the 2.5% annual retrofitting plan “would be almost impossible to catch up, placing further strain on the power sector and pushing up fossil fuel demand”. The implications of this are explored in its’ “delayed retrofit case”.

Just under 40% of the emissions reductions in the roadmap involve adopting technologies that require little involvement from the general public, the IEA says. The remainder require at least some participation from individuals. Around three-quarters of emissions reductions from behavioural changes rely upon governments introducing policies and developing infrastructure, such as new high-speed railways to encourage cleaner transport options.

Other targets that require citizen engagement are phasing out petrol and diesel cars in all large cities by 2030, and discouraging flying to the extent that business and long-haul leisure air travel does not exceed 2019 levels by 2050.The remaining behavioural emissions savings need to come from voluntary changes to save energy, mainly in reducing profligacy in people’s homes.

This report has added status and impact, because uniquely it is created by an intergovernmental agency long caricatured as the official mouthpiece of the fossil fuel industry.

2 thoughts on “Energy efficiency at heart of global push to net zero

  1. The IEA is absolutely right to describe this as one of the most important roadmaps it has ever produced. Correctly it focusses upon making energy efficiency its top priority
    . This weekend’s Financial Times contains an interview describing it as from LA La Land. That quote comes from the latest Saudi Arabian Prince now running that country’s energy policy.He boasts that” whoever put that scenario together is not in touch with reality.”
    But as one of his wiser Saudi predecessors memorably warned:” ” The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones.”

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