From hidden fuel to world’s first fuel

IEA, Frise, Hywel Davies, energy efficiency

The scale of global investment in energy efficiency and its contribution to energy demand is as significant as those of other developed supply-side resources — according to a report* from the International Energy Agency that, for the first time, describes the wide range of energy-efficiency activities in market terms.

A key finding is that energy savings from energy-efficiency measures from 1974 to 2010 exceeded the output from any other source of fuel. In that year, the 11 IEA economies avoided burning 1.5 billion tonnes of oil equivalent as a result of those improvements. Assets developed over the same period were equivalent to about 1 billion tonnes of oil equivalent in 2010.

Without energy-efficiency measures over that period, energy consumption in 2010 would have been nearly 60% higher.

The UK achieved the largest average annual reduction from 1990 to 2010, at 2.6%, compared with the average for 15 countries of 1.6%. The UK savings were evenly split between efficiency and structure effects.

Hywel Davies, technical director of CIBSE, comments, ‘It is encouraging that the International Energy Agency is joining the growing number of bodies taking energy efficiency seriously. This report follows hard on the heels of the recent CBI report on energy efficiency, showing the vital importance of energy efficiency. Energy efficiency certainly is a hidden fuel in the UK, yet the CBI report estimates that it could be a £17 billion industry here.

‘With growing concern about renewable energy costs and risk of blackouts, energy efficiency offers the UK a credible short-term way to reduce energy demand, improve our homes and building stock, and develop new skills and business to contribute to long term growth.

‘We need to see a step change in the compliance of our buildings with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which provides information on energy saving opportunities. We also need to see the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme actively embraced by business. When we look at the scale of investment needed to keep the lights on, energy efficiency suddenly makes great sense for the UK. This report should be required reading for the Treasury, DECC, DCLG and BIS, to see what opportunities energy efficiency offers UK Plc today.’

And from David Frise, head of sustainability at B&ES. comes this comment. ‘Everyone is having a say on energy prices — even the Archbishop of Canterbury — in the wake of the latest round of hikes from the ‘big six’ suppliers and the deal struck between the Government and EDF over the Hinkley Point nuclear reactor.

‘However, most of them are missing the main point — the most valuable fuel is the fuel we don’t use.

‘The only way to get a grip on energy costs is to use less. The price per KWh is far less of an issue if we don’t use so much, but the main political focus has been on new generation rather than reducing consumption. A higher price for consumers is the inevitable outcome if the main focus is on developing new sources of generation – whether conventional, nuclear or renewable.

‘The Government is powerless to do anything about gas and electricity rises in a free market economy and has had to accept a high price of future electricity to get Hinkley Point built. Yet energy efficiency would cost it far less and save far more.

‘The Green Deal is supposed to be the Coalition’s ‘flagship green policy’, but it is making little progress. Surely the financial argument is now impossible to ignore. Underwriting the cost of the Green Deal would remove the need for the 7% interest charge on the loans that is putting off households. A lower rate of council tax and stamp duty for more energy efficient properties are also relatively low-cost measures that could have a dramatic, positive impact on future energy costs.’

*‘Energy efficiency market report’ is on sale at the IEA bookshop

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