Energy efficiency – not glamorous but really effective

Energy efficiency is the cheapest, fastest tool for cutting emissions – it is important to get rid of its “boring” image to stimulate spending, the International Energy Agency IEA said.

Philippe Benoit, the agency’s head of energy efficiency, spoke about this issue when he was in Bonn to attend a week-long round of United Nations climate-treaty talks earlier this month. He told delegates that while energy efficiency is often perceived as a “low-hanging fruit,” the difficulty in promoting it made it more like “a big watermelon” that’s hard to lift.

“People need to change their mindset about adopting efficiency measures”,  Benoit said.

Here are a few facts that support this notion:co2.gif

  • More than 40% of the emissions cuts needed to contain greenhouse gases to safe levels come from measures such as insulation and vehicle and appliance standards
  •  21% of these cuts come from renewables
  • and only 8% from nuclear power

“It’s perceived as boring and intangible, and the combination of the two makes it more difficult to understand,” Benoit said. “It’s much easier for people to understand putting solar panels on their roof and seeing the kilowatt-hours they generate than putting insulation in their home and noting the savings in energy consumption.
While IEA estimates that globally about $300 billion is spent a year on efficiency measures, under current government policies, investment in efficiency through 2035 is projected to be just a third of what is actually economically viable.

Currently our planet is on track to warm by more than 4 degrees Celsius rather than the 2-degree cap that treaty negotiators seek, according to the World Bank. Energy efficiency could help close that gap, Benoit said. He said the prominence of global warming has raised the profile of efficiency in a way not seen since the oil shock in the 1970s, “but it’s not yet where it needs to be.”

 “We need to change the mindset on energy efficiency. We need to think about the benefits it brings as if it were a fuel.”

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