The "main fuel" for economic development

The "main fuel" for economic development

Serena Sabino
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Energy efficiency allows families, businesses and governments to reduce their electricity bill and cut carbon emissions enough to be considered a source of energy in its own right

A couple of years ago, the Ngewanas, a wealthy family in Cape Town, gathered around the kitchen table and gave themselves an ambitious goal: to cut their electricity consumption by 40%, by modernizing their apartment and changing their daily routines. Thanks to savings achieved through small steps, such as replacing old light bulbs with new, more efficient lights, the Ngewanas were able to fund the insulation of the walls of the house, the installation of solar panels for hot water and ceiling fans. In less than three months, the family’s energy-saving target had already been exceeded and, at the same time, the level of comfort of their apartment had significantly increased.
From private apartments to large industries, energy efficiency offers governments, businesses and families the tools and solutions to reduce their energy bills, cut carbon emissions and save money at the same time.

From South Africa to China: the efficiency figures

In #India, #energy efficiency measures could reduce #domestic energy consumption by over 10%. @IEA

An analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA) reveals that with large-scale investments in energy efficiency, South Africa could reduce its need for additional electricity generation capacity by 18% by 2030. 25 million tons less carbon would also be burned, equivalent to 275,000 coal wagons. In India, energy efficiency measures could reduce national energy consumption by over 10%. Moreover, the IEA explains, efficiency has been the basis of the decrease in India’s energy intensity (the amount of primary energy that a country needs to generate one unit of gross domestic product) which, in 10 years, has almost halved. Between 2006 and 2014, China invested $370 billion in energy efficiency, resulting in several benefits including a reduction in atmospheric pollution and a lower energy bill for consumers. The energy saving due to such investments is equal to the entire production of renewable energy in China. In the energy sector alone, the increased efficiency has avoided over $230 billion of investments in new power stations (especially coal-powered) to generate electricity and reduced the carbon dioxide emissions of the People’s Republic by 1.2 billion tons in 2014, equal to Japan’s total CO2 emissions.
More generally, according to the IEA, the use of energy efficiency measures currently available is expected to universally provide modern energy services with 50-80% less energy.

Sub-Saharan Africa and the 66% paradox

Energy efficiency is an essential component of the response to the search for solutions to facilitate greater access to energy for the populations of developing countries, often rich in resources but poor in reliable energy services. A case in point is that of Sub-Saharan Africa, where 66% of the population – over 620 million people – do not have access to energy, while 66% of investments are aimed at energy exports rather than domestic use. The paradox is even more evident when considering the fact that approximately one-third of all oil and gas field discoveries between 2009 and 2014 were made in the Sub-Saharan region itself. Efficient technologies may help to free up capacity in an electricity network, allowing for the provision of energy services to a higher number of consumers. In 2007, Ghana, whose energy demand was growing at a rate of 7% per year, was the first African country to experience a program involving the replacement of domestic light bulbs with more efficient models: in the space of three months the government distributed six million low-energy compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) free of charge and collected millions of incandescent light bulbs. The program led to energy savings amounting to 124 megawatts and allowed the government to avoid over $300 million in investments in power plants that would have been needed to reach the same maximum capacity with the old bulbs. In two years, the number of CFL light bulbs installed in apartments increased from 3% to 79% of the total. The program allowed for the widening of access to electrical lighting in Ghana without the need to increase the country’s power generation capacity.

In 2007, Ghana, whose energy demand was growing at a rate of 7% per year, was the first African country to experience a program involving the replacement of domestic light bulbs with more efficient models

Overall energy intensity improves, but not fast enough

Overall energy intensity decreased by 1.8% in 2015, which means that the economy needed less energy to grow. The figure represents an improvement over the decline recorded in 2014 (1.5%) and at the annual rate of the previous 10 years (0.6%). This improvement is particularly significant, says the IEA, in a context of low prices, with oil prices plunging by 60% since 2014. In any case, progress is still too slow: the IEA estimates that an immediate decline of 2.6% per year would be needed between 2016 and 2030 in order not to fail to reach the climate goals. Energy intensity has not decreased evenly across the entire globe. The best performances, last year, were recorded in emerging and developing countries (2.5%), rather than in industrialized countries (2%).