Energy efficiency key to future

Posted on 17 October 2013

Energy efficiency can be a major contributor to the world achieving its energy needs, said Maria van der Hoeven, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Discussing its goal that half of energy can come from “negawatts,” or energy efficient savings, she said “It’s not just about low hanging fruits, we have to climb the trees of energy efficiency.” Admitting that it won’t always be easy to achieve these energy savings, she issued a call to “approach energy efficiency as a market,” adding that “all this efficiency can be monetized.”

The global energy efficiency market is potentially huge, with estimated worldwide savings in 2011 totaling $300 billion. Alluding to this, van der Hoeven noted, “Energy efficiency has been called the hidden fuel, yet it is hiding in plain sight.” She added that that there are large opportunities for job creation in this burgeoning sector. Citing the UK as an example she said it is estimated that the energy efficiency sector will have added 65,000 jobs to the British economy by 2015.

Tadj Oreszczyn, Professor of Energy and Environment at University College London (UCL), warned that achieving genuine savings would be difficult. While agreeing on the massive economic opportunities on offer, Oreszczyn said, “What we often find is that in reality the technologies or policies do not deliver what is theoretically expected,” and called for “a new professionalism about how we deal with the sectors of energy efficiency.”

Using an analogy to the health sector, the UCL Professor explained that while initial medical trials can be successful, sometimes the results are different to what is found in the lab. “People may refuse to take their medication, and they may use it in a way that actually harms them.” Calling for the development of an “energy epidemiology,” he said that it was necessary to be more scientific about evaluating how people actually use and respond to energy efficiency tools and initiatives. “Without this we can really risk billions of dollars in this sector without achieving the targets that we are internationally setting ourselves.”


This news story is based on the Bottom Line session, “Energy efficiency: How to fulfil the potential”, at the 2013 World Energy Congress.