Energy use in the new millennium

“Improvements in energy efficiency have played a key role in limiting increases in energy use and CO2 emissions in IEA countries. However, it is clear that much more can be done. Gains in energy efficiency are currently only about half the rate seen in the 1970s and 1980s,” said Mr. Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), today in Berlin at the launch of a new IEA publication Energy Use in the New Millennium: Trends in IEA countries. The study examines how changes in energy efficiency, as well as other factors such as economic structure, income, prices and fuel mix have affected recent trends in energy use and CO2 emissions in IEA countries. This work was undertaken by the IEA in support of the Group of Eight's Gleneagles Plan of Action for Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development.

“Savings since 1990 from better energy efficiency have resulted in CO2 emissions in the IEA being 14% – or 1.2 gigatonnes of CO2 – lower than they otherwise would have been. These savings are approximately equivalent to the annual final energy consumption and CO2 emissions of Japan and, by the end of the period analysed, resulted in annual fuel and electricity cost savings of at least USD 170 billion, noted Mr. Tanaka.

The book reveals many insights that should reshape our approach to energy efficiency. For instance, electricity use in the household and service sectors is increasing much more rapidly than consumption of fuels, such as gas and oil, in these sectors. As a result, appliances and air conditioning are rapidly approaching space heating as the most significant source of CO2 emissions from households. New engine technologies and vehicle design have produced significant efficiency benefits in passenger cars. However in many countries, the benefits of introducing more efficient vehicles have been eroded by increased congestion, changes in driver behaviour and additional in-car amenities. On a more encouraging note, strong efficiency improvements are having a substantial impact in manufacturing. Energy use and CO2 emissions in this sector have remained almost unchanged since 1990, even though output has increased by nearly one-third.

Energy Use in the New Millennium: Trends in IEA countries exposes the critical need for more timely and better information with which to judge the value of existing energy policies and to identify the stronger policies needed to meet the challenges identified by the G8 leaders. The results have been calculated by a “bottom-up” analysis of key indicators which describe in detail energy use and energy-using activities across five major sectors (manufacturing, services, households, passenger and freight transport) in 20 of the 26 IEA member countries. However, even these countries struggle to provide the necessary data for all sectors. “Governments need to put substantially greater resources into developing and improving end-use data to enable effective monitoring of energy consumption and CO2 trends at deeper levels of detail,” emphasised Mr. Tanaka.

Despite some positive developments, the new publication clearly shows that IEA countries are not on a path to a sustainable energy future. “We must find new ways to accelerate the decoupling of energy use and CO2 emissions from economic growth. The good news is that there is still substantial scope for cost-effective energy efficiency improvements in buildings, appliances, industry and transport. The bad news is we need to move much faster in realising this potential. This will require strong and innovative action on the part of governments,” concluded Mr. Tanaka.