The International Energy Agency (IEA) has referred to energy efficiency as the “world’s first fuel”, championing it as a major new fuel with potential to cut carbon emissions and pollution while providing cost-effective energy security.
Its new report has revealed the energy savings from efficiency measures taken over the longer term exceeded the output from any other single fuel source.
Launching the inaugural Energy Efficiency Market Report last week, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said: “Simply put, the cleanest megawatt hour will be the one we never need and the most secure barrel of oil the one we never burn. It is also often the cheapest and the easiest to achieve in difficult conditions. But energy efficiency opportunities really make up an interlinked constellation – between transport, industry, buildings and the like.”
The IEA valued worldwide energy efficiency investments in 2011 at $300 billion (£185bn), a figure similar in size to global funding of renewable energy and fossil fuels. Between 2005 and 2010, 11 of the IEA member states made energy savings equal to $420 billion (£259bn) – higher than from any other single fuel source.
In the same countries – Australia, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the US – consumers would be using and paying for two-thirds more energy if efficiency measures weren’t implemented in the past few years, the IEA said.
Its report also showed energy efficiency provided a larger energy resource than oil, electricity or gas in 2010. In the same year, the 11 nations also avoided burning 1.5 billion tonnes of oil equivalent due to the efficiency improvements developed since 1974, the IEA said.
Ms van der Hoeven added: “Energy efficiency has been called a ‘hidden fuel’, yet it is hiding in plain sight. Indeed, 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?”