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Energy efficiency – "the first fuel" – is at the heart of clean energy transition as it represents the cleanest and, in most cases, the cheapest way to meet our energy needs. Strong energy efficiency policies are key to achieve the rapid deployment of more energy‐efficient technologies and electrification of end‐uses in line with IEA’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario. This accelerated energy efficiency progress will provide multiple benefits including reduced energy bills, better air quality, improved energy security and increased energy access.

More than 100 countries now use mandatory energy efficiency performance standards and/or energy labels for air conditioners, refrigeration, lighting, industrial motors, passenger cars and other vehicles. However, standards are still absent and weak in a range of markets where growth in ownership of appliances and vehicles is fastest.

Global energy use covered by mandatory standards or comparative labels for key end uses, 1990-2021


Detailed data and indicators on energy consumption by end-uses are essential to track the effectiveness of the policy measures along with new trends in energy consumption. With this purpose in mind, the IEA since 20091 has collected data on energy efficiency and end-uses for member countries and more recently from non-member countries.

This section draws on the Energy Efficiency Indicators database, providing an updated selection of data, showing historical trends of energy use and an overview of final energy-consuming sectors.

Globally, energy use and economic development have been decoupling, with gross domestic product (GDP) more than doubling between 1990 and 20192, whereas total energy supply (TES) grew by 66%.

World GDP and total energy supply trends, 1990-2019


The amount of energy used to generate a unit of GDP, also called energy intensity of the economy (TES/‌GDP), decreased globally by 35% between 1990 and 2019, with large regional variations. The fall has been greater outside the OECD. For example, in China3, intensity more than halved (-72%) over this period.

Global energy intensity, 1990 vs. 2019


Energy intensity is often used as an indicator of energy efficiency – mainly because, at the aggregate level, it is a proxy measurement for the energy required to satisfy the services demanded. In addition, it is a relatively easy indicator to calculate and compare across countries. However, the correlation between energy intensity and energy efficiency is not always perfect. For instance, a small services-based economy in a mild climate would have a lower intensity than a large industry-based economy in a cold climate, even if the latter uses energy more efficiently. Equally, trends towards lower intensity are not necessarily driven by efficiency improvements.

Other elements also play a role in defining intensity levels and trends, including the economic structure (share of large energy-consuming industries), geographic characteristics (e.g. longer distances leading to higher demand for transport), climate and weather conditions (demand changes for heating or cooling), and the exchange rate.

That is why more detailed analysis is needed to provide insight into the factors driving final energy use trends.

Notes and references
  1. Time series collected generally start in 2000. This edition includes also data for IEA association countries (Brazil, Morocco, and South Africa), IEA accession countries (Chile and Lithuania), and 23 countries beyond IEA family.

  2. The latest year for which detailed energy use data were available for most IEA countries at the time of preparation of this publication.

  3. Including the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong, China.