Understanding energy demand is key to an affordable clean energy future

Morocco is quietly becoming one of the most low-carbon economies in the world, on track to exceed its goal of having 42% of its power capacity based on renewable sources by 2020.

Yet the country also understands that the low-carbon transition is not just about deploying renewable power generation. It’s also about understanding who is using power, when and why – and encouraging them to use less. Learning more about this relationship between renewables and energy efficiency – and finding the right mix between policies that support both – was the central theme of a recent IEA forum “Integrating Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: Least cost solutions for a clean energy future.

Speaking at the event, Dr Abdelkader Amara, the Moroccan Minister of Energy and Mines, Water and Environment, outlined how his country was reducing energy imports and curbing emissions while at the same time attracting investment for solar PV, wind and solar thermal power. He highlighted a range of industry, transport and lighting programs that were proven to effectively reduce energy demand. The “green mosque” programme, for example, is renovating about 600 mosques across the country to be more energy efficient, resulting in in daily power usage cuts of about 40 percent.

Speaking at the forum, Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director, stressed that countries need to take an integrated approach to reducing demand through energy efficiency, at the same time as increasing clean energy through renewables.

Dr Birol highlighted difficulty in finding this balance, noting that “homeowners are already often more interested in buying PV panels for their roofs than insulating their properties.” Providing policy advice on this integrated approach to clean energy market design policy is at the heart of the IEA’s modernization agenda and engagement of emerging economies, he said.

Another speaker, Thorsten Herdan, the Director-General at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, said  that policy makers were too often thinking about supply side solutions and needed to also consider demand aspects of the equation.

“We should first look to energy savings and then to the sectors where renewables can be most cost effective,” he said.

On the relationship between renewables and energy Mr Herdan added:  “They are twins that should complement and love each other but we have to be careful that they don’t fight and undermine each other.”

Other participants included senior government, industry and community officials and representatives from China, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Europe and the US.

Discussion over the course of the forum provided insight and case studies including new and developing business models for delivering integrated solutions enabled by digital information technology, much lower wattages on appliances and low cost PV and battery technology, and the Bboxx program presented by  Mansoor Hamayun whose company is suppling PV battery packages to power TV, radio, phones and lighting in remote rural villages of Africa at prices cheaper than kerosene.

The IEA will release the Energy Efficiency Market Report 2016 on 10 October at the World Energy Congress in Istanbul, and the Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2016 on 24 October at Singapore Energy Week.