Growing global energy efficiency gains are credited with saving the world 12% in total energy use since 2000, but the International Energy Agency is warning of a possible reversal in progress.
Today, energy efficiency is more instrumental in the achievement of global policy goals, including energy security, economic growth and environmental sustainability than ever before in our history.
That is the buoyant conclusion drawn by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its recently published Energy Efficiency 2017 report, which examines worldwide energy efficiency trends.
One only has to glance at the UK government’s ambitious new Clean Growth Strategy, which places energy efficiency right at the heart of its objective to decarbonise industry, combat climate change, and drive economic prosperity, to appreciate just how important energy-saving has become to the policy-making of modern, developed countries.
Or has it?
Despite the huge recent progress in worldwide energy efficiency, the IEA also issues a word of warning.
With implementation of new policies slowing – meaning a growing dependence on policy of old – a raft of new energy efficiency regulation is needed, otherwise we risk a “backward step”.
What are the reasons for optimism?
As outlined in the report, energy efficiency improvements have had a “significant impact on global energy demand”, leading to cuts in both consumer energy bills and carbon emissions over the last fifteen years or so.
Efficiency gains, for instance, are credited with saving the world 12% in total energy use since the turn of the millennium – tantamount to lopping off the European Union from the global energy market.
While enhancements in domestic energy efficiency have played a major part in this, it is industrial- and commercial-scale action that has unsurprisingly had the biggest energy-saving impact.
According to the IEA, energy use per unit of economic output in the industrial sector fell by nearly 20% between 2000 and 2016.
Energy management and ‘smart’ systems on the rise
The increased adoption by large organisations of energy management systems, which allow energy consumption to be better tracked and energy efficiency opportunities to be identified more easily, notably contributed to this – a trend driven by both policy and increased awareness over the financial benefits, as well as the wider availability and affordability of expert energy management service providers.
Alongside energy management, building performance also continues to improve thanks to innovations in property technology (‘PropTech’) and building controls.
By 2022, 90% of indoor lighting worldwide is expected to be provided by compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), while ‘smart’ devices are also providing new opportunities for energy savings through more accurate control of consumption.
For instance, by the end of 2016, half a billion smart meters – which track and display electricity use in real time – had been or were contracted to be installed globally. Among other benefits, smart meters can complement other connected devices, allowing consumers to adjust energy use in response to changes in energy price.
Outside our buildings too there are significant advancements being made in energy efficiency – namely through the increasing use of electric vehicles (EVs).
International sales of EVs, which are much more efficient than conventional motor cars, grew by 40% in 2016 due to an expansion in production capacity, a bigger range of models and improved vehicle performance.
With the global energy efficiency market continuing to expand (investment increased by 9% to $231 billion in 2016), the future looks a lot brighter now than it would have without the energy-saving gains made in recent times.
As one of the UK’s leading energy management providers and energy service companies (ESCOs), we are dedicated to helping continue this trend and contributing to a clean energy future.
The IEA warns that, despite progress, energy efficiency risks a “backward step” if more new policies aren’t implemented to replace existing or old ones.
However, while we understand that policy and compliance are big driving factors in the global energy efficiency trend – and are fully supportive of any new legislation that helps further the clean growth cause – we are also big believers in taking the initiative.
The SMS view
Every year, a growing number of British organisations come to us for help in reducing their energy consumption through improved energy efficiency – not because they have to, but because they want to.
Solely complying with regulation – though we can help with that too – is the very minimum any modern, forward-thinking organisation can do. Indeed, energy saving measures are today increasingly seen not as an obligation, but a major strategic investment good for both the environment and profitability.
For progressive, energy-conscious organisations such as these, we provide practical guidance and support to rationalise energy usage and maximise efficiency.
In doing so, we can help set clear and realistic objectives for efficient energy though our comprehensive energy assessment surveys made possible by our bespoke, sophisticated software, and the knowledge and expertise of some of the most experienced energy consultants in the country.
Significantly, we are able to not only manage the project for you, but also offer financing, meaning you only pay when your business starts saving money.