Energy efficiency is world's 'first fuel', says IEA

18th October 2013

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More energy is being saved through efficiency measures than is generated by any single fuel source in some of the world's leading economies, according to the IEA

In a new report examining the global market in energy efficiency measures, the International Energy Agency (IEA) describes energy efficiency as a major fuel.

Figures from 11 IEA member countries, including Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the UK and the US, confirm that in 2010 energy efficiency measures prevented 1.5 billion tonnes of oil equivalent from being burned, saving more energy than was generated by any single fossil fuel or renewable energy source.

“Energy efficiency has been called a ‘hidden fuel’, yet it is hiding in plain sight,” said the IEA’s executive director Maria van der Hoeven, in presenting the report to the World Energy Congress in Korea.

“The degree of global investment in energy efficiency and the resulting energy savings are so massive that they beg the following question: Is energy efficiency not just a hidden fuel but rather the world’s first fuel?”

According to the report, global investment in energy efficiency measures reached $300 billion in 2011, comparable to the level of investment in renewable technologies and fossil fuels.

Analysis of the 11 IEA countries’ energy use reveals that between 2005 and 2010, efficiency measures saved the equivalent of $420 billion worth of oil, and that had those measures not been put in place, consumers would be using about two-thirds more energy than at present.

However, the report also concludes that much greater energy savings can be made. According to its analysis, in 2012 two‐thirds of the potential energy efficiencies remained unrealised, across industry, transport, power generation and buildings. Less than 20% of potential energy savings possible in buildings were realised, it states.

From December 2015, all large businesses in Europe will have to complete regular energy audits under EU legislation aimed at encouraging firms to install energy saving measures.

The assessment will produce a list of “cost-effective efficiency measures” that the firm can implement. According to Decc, if UK companies implement just 6% of the measures identified they will save cut energy costs by £1.9 billion between 2015 and 2030. If uptake is greater the savings could be as high as £3 billion.

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