Navigant Research Blog

Meeting Global Challenges with Energy Efficiency

Tom Machinchick — January 9, 2017

Energy CloudAccording to the International Energy Agency (IEA), efficiency is the only energy resource that all nations possess in abundance. Similar to other resources, energy efficiency must be mined. Not from the ground per se, but by examining the available opportunities and by implementing a holistic plan that looks at methods and actions appropriate for the locale, climate, population, demographics, and a host of other interrelated inputs.

According to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2013, every $1 invested in efficiency saves $2 in new power plants and electricity distribution costs. Globally, buildings are responsible for nearly 40% of energy use (including 60% of electricity use), 12% of water use, 40% of waste generated by volume, and 40% of material resources. This vast amount of resource consumption provides a significant opportunity that amounts to more than mere cost reductions for building owners, managers, and tenants. Energy efficiency competes on price with the cheapest of energy generation technologies.

Example End Use Consumption of Standard Building Components in Different Climate Zones

(Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy)

This value has consistently held up over time, making it a stable and relatively predictable alternative to new generation sources of any kind. Overall, investments in energy efficiency enable more effective capital utilization to help meet difficult global challenges such as accelerating urbanization, climate change, national energy security, energy access, and worker productivity, to name just a few.

Opportunities in Buildings Efficiency

Navigant Research’s 2015 Global Building Stock Database report noted that residential and commercial global building stock was expected to reach 160 billion square meters in 2016. There are many opportunities to expand and extend the value of this resource, and the world is making progress. Gross domestic product and population growth has been largely decoupled from the demand for energy, the energy intensity of nations has decreased, and energy efficiency policies covered 30% of energy consumption (up from 11% in 2000). All this has happened despite the fact that oil prices fell as much as 60% in 2014.

Overall, progress continues to be made on efficiency gains in developed and developing nations, and regional and country specific momentum may be strong enough to withstand the temporary political climates that could serve as a hindrance.

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