Sustainable Energy

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Energy Efficiency (EE) efforts have fallen off

The International Energy Agency (IEA) compiled an interesting graph, based on information about 10 European countries plus the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Japan. It can be found on the Executive summary of the book ‘Energy Use in the New Millennium: Trends in the IEA countries’, published on the IEA Web site. The graph shows the annual growth of energy consumption (actual energy use) and how much energy savings have contributed to restricting this growth (energy efficiency improvements). The period from 1973 to 1990 is compared with the period from 1990 to 2004.

The graph shows that the actual growth in energy use has increased. It also shows that energy efficiency improvements have fallen off considerably. In fact, the hypothetical growth of energy use without energy efficiency improvements was larger in the former period than in recent years.

Does this mean that energy efficiency as an energy source is slowly running dry? Not according to the IEA. They still see significant scope in those countries for adopting more cost-effective energy-efficient technologies in buildings, industry, and transport. The IEA concludes in this study that the oil price shocks in the 1970s did considerably more to control growth in energy demand than climate policies implemented since the 1990s. However they do add the consideration that the study does not fully reflect the impact of many policies recently initiated.

Europe 30 per cent more efficient than US

A study by the French ADAME (Agence De l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie) shows which countries are the most energy intensive per GDP and consequently still have the largest energy savings potential. The EU turns out to be the least energy intensive economy. It uses 30 less energy per GDP than the US and 40 per cent less than China. Across Europe there are still large disparities. Eastern European countries are the least efficient while the 15 oldest members of the EU are the best performers. Worst performer, Bulgaria, is 2.5 times less energy efficient than best performer, the UK.

The US preparing for pursuit?

An increasing number of voices can be heard in the US that they should be doing much more to make up the arrears in energy efficiency. Recently the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency Leadership Group presented the report ‘Vision for 2025: Developing a Framework for Change‘. The report advocates an aggressive pursuit of energy efficiency in the US over the next 18 years to cut the nation’s growth in energy use by 50 per cent. The idea is to achieve all cost-effective energy efficiency improvements throughout the US by 2025. Doing so would avoid 500 million metric tons of CO2 per year and would achieve $500 billion in net savings.


  • Press release Amélioration nette de la performance énergétique mondiale by ADEME
  • Article ‘Efficiency Could Cut Growth in U.S. Energy Use in Half’ on the EERE Web site
  • Executive summary of the book ‘Energy Use in the New Millennium: Trends in the IEA countries’ on the IEA Web site
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