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10 key recommendations to rapidly boost energy efficiency progress worldwide

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Higher ambition and faster action by governments to accelerate improvements in energy efficiency worldwide are both vital and achievable, according to 10 key recommendations published today by a group of national leaders, ministers, top business executives and prominent energy experts. The list of proposed actions will be a key part of discussions at a major IEA conference that takes place tomorrow.

With the support of the IEA, the members of the Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency have over the past year explored the most effective ways to achieve stronger global progress in energy efficiency, which brings major benefits such as lower energy bills, large numbers of new jobs and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Their 10 recommendations highlight the best approaches to designing and implementing policies to unlock the huge advantages that energy efficiency offers to economies and societies around the world.

The Global Commission’s work comes as many governments are increasingly focusing on plans to repair the social and economic damage caused by the Covid-19 crisis. The Commission’s recommendations focus on this new reality and highlight the strong role that energy efficiency can play in bringing about a sustainable recovery.

“At this critical time, the importance of energy efficiency has not faded. If anything, the case is stronger and more urgent than ever before,” said Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland, the Commission’s Honorary Chair, in an introduction to the recommendations. “We need transformative change. Therefore, we have developed this set of 10 recommendations that identify policies that can be implemented quickly to boost activity on energy efficiency globally.”

Established a year ago, the Global Commission is an independent body comprising 23 members from around the world spanning government, industry, research and civil society. Drawing on the IEA’s analysis showing the worrying slowdown of global efficiency progress in recent years, the Global Commission was tasked with examining how to reverse this trend through new and stronger policy action by governments across key sectors of the economy.

The work of the Global Commission complements a major IEA report released last week that outlines a Sustainable Recovery Plan designed to enable governments to simultaneously boost their economies, create millions of jobs and put global greenhouse gas emissions into structural decline. Based on an analysis conducted in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund, the new IEA report shows that energy efficiency is an essential element in achieving these results.

“The IEA sees energy efficiency as a crucial clean energy resource,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “It has enormous untapped potential to help put the world on a more secure and sustainable path if governments make it an integral part of their policies and programmes across key parts of the economy. This is why I invited the members of the Global Commission to come together to identify global best practices and make actionable recommendations to spur the faster progress that the world urgently needs. I thank all the Commission members for their extremely valuable contributions to this endeavour.”

The Global Commission’s recommendations will be discussed at the IEA’s Fifth Annual Global Conference on Energy Efficiency, which will take place online on 23 June. The conference will hear from 15 ministers from around the world, with a focus on policy actions that can deliver the multiple benefits of energy efficiency as governments respond to the Covid-19 crisis. High-level speakers will bring a range of perspectives from governments, companies and international organisations.

The role of energy efficiency in economic stimulus plans and clean energy transitions will be an important part of discussions at the IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit on 9 July. The Summit, which will take place online, will bring together dozens of ministers from countries representing over 80% of global energy demand as well as energy industry CEOs, big investors and other key leaders from the public and private sectors around the world.

Actions proposed by Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency highlight benefits of efficiency for sustainable recovery plans and will be discussed at major IEA conference tomorrow

1. Prioritise cross-cutting energy efficiency action for its economic, social and environmental benefits

A stronger, all-of-government policy focus will enhance social and economic development, energy security and resilience, decarbonisation, and rapid job creation and economic stimulus

2. Act to unlock efficiency’s job creation potential

Energy efficiency can quickly deliver job growth and can become a long-term, sustainable employment sector

3. Create greater demand for energy efficiency solutions

Efficiency action will be most rapidly scaled up through a focus on increasing demand for efficient products and services and enabling greater levels of market activity

4. Focus on finance in the wider context of scaling up action

Mobilising finance is an essential element of efficiency action, and policies to do so will be most effective if they are part of a wide, coherent approach to driving market scale

5. Leverage digital innovation to enhance system-wide efficiency

Policymakers can take advantage of digital innovation’s potential to enable smart control, better energy management, and wider energy system optimisation

6. The public sector should lead by example

Governments should lead through investment in public sector efficiency and driving innovation and higer standards throughout its reach

7. Engage all parts of society

Implementation of efficiency action can happen at all levels of society, with cities, businesses, and local communities all playing a particularly important role in its success

8. Leverage behavioural insights for more effective policy

People are at the centre of energy efficiency action, and insights from behavioural science can help design smarter policies

9. Strengthen international collaboration

International collaboration and exchange of best practice allow countries to learn from each other and to harmonise approaches and standards where appropriate

10. Raise global energy efficiency ambition

Governments should be significantly more ambitious in both the short- and long-term when setting their efficiency targets, policies and actions

The Global Commission’s 10 Recommendations

Honorary Chair: H.E. Mr. Leo VARADKAR, Prime Minister of Ireland H.E. Dr. Amani ABOU-ZEID, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, African Union Commission, Ethiopia H.E. Mr. Richard BRUTON, Minister of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Ireland Mr. Nick BUTLER, Visiting Professor, King’s College London, United Kingdom H.E. Mr. Alfonso CUSI, Secretary, Department of Energy, Philippines Ms. Lisa DAVIS, CEO, Gas and Power, Siemens, United States Ms. Connie HEDEGAARD, Chair, KR Foundation, Denmark Mr. Michael LIEBREICH, Chairman and CEO, Liebreich Associates, United Kingdom Dr. Ajay MATHUR, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute, India Ms. Lisa MURKOWSKI, US Senator, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, United States (honorary member) Mr. Gil C. QUINIONES, President and CEO, New York Power Authority, United States H.E. Mr. Aziz RABBAH, Minister of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development, Morocco H.E. Ms. Teresa RIBERA RODRIGUEZ, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Ecological Transition, Spain Mr. Adam SIEMINSKI, President, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, Saudi Arabia H.E. Ms. María Fernanda SUÁREZ LONDOÑO, Minister of Mines and Energy, Colombia Mr. Masakazu TOYODA, Chairman and CEO, Institute of Energy Economics, Japan Mr. Jürgen TRITTIN, Member of the German Parliament, Germany H.E. Mr. Claude TURMES, Minister for Energy and Minister for Spatial Planning, Luxembourg Mr. Ben van BEURDEN, CEO, Royal Dutch Shell, the Netherlands H.E. Dr. WAN Gang, Chairman, Science and Technology Association of China H.E. Dr. Megan WOODS, Minister of Energy and Resources, New Zealand Dr. Kandeh YUMKELLA, Former UN Under-Secretary-General, CEO & Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sustainable Energy for All, Sierra Leone H.E. Ms. Salomé ZOURABICHVILI, President of Georgia

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IRENA Outlines Action Agenda on Offshore Renewables for G20

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Boosting offshore renewables will accelerate the energy transition and allow G20 countries to build a resilient and sustainable energy system, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) finds. Offshore Renewables: An Action Agenda for Deployment actively contributes to the G20 agenda by identifying actions which support the commercialisation of offshore technologies such as wind, wave, tidal, ocean thermal and floating PV in pursuit of extending their deployment worldwide. The report was launched by IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera during the meeting of G20 Environment, Climate and Energy Ministers in Naples.

“Offshore renewables have the potential to meet more than twenty times of today’s global power demand”, said Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA. “Particularly offshore renewables constitute a critical pillar for decarbonising energy systems and fostering a global blue economy. I congratulate the G20 Presidency for their forward-looking decision to integrate offshore renewables in the G20 agenda. IRENA is pleased to support the G20 Offshore Renewables Action Agenda with our energy transition expertise and valuable input from our global membership.”

To put the world on a climate-safe pathway, IRENA’s 1.5°C scenario foresees a massive growth of offshore wind,  ocean energy and floating photovoltaic in the coming decades. Offshore wind for example would increase from 34 gigawatts (GW) today to 380 GW by 2030 and more than 2,000 GW by 2050. Ocean energy would represent additional 350 GW of offshore renewable generation capacity by 2050.

Today’s report includes 50 concrete actions that G20 countries could take while defining their national strategies for offshore renewables. Suggested actions include the strengthening of oceans governance in line with UN Law of the Sea, the integration of offshore renewables in national marine spatial planning and early planning for infrastructure like underwater cables and grids. Policy frameworks, international cooperation and investment in R&D are key recommendations to drive offshore globally. The report recommends to promote financing for offshore within the “Finance Track” of the G20.

Offshore renewables have the potential to greatly contribute to SDG 14 on the sustainably use of oceans while boosting blue economy activities such fishery, shipping and tourism. A blue economy fuelled by offshore renewables would help islands and countries with coastal areas to meet their national goals aligned with the Paris Agreement and 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

The G20 is well placed to foster offshore renewables. Members account for the vast majority of global economic activity and trade and are home to over three-quarters of total offshore renewable installed capacity to date. 99.3% of total offshore wind capacity and nearly all installed ocean energy capacity globally can be found in G20 countries.

Today’s report was prepared by IRENA on the request and to the Italian Presidency of the G20. It benefited from the input of the G20 Working Group on Energy and insights by IRENA’s global membership gained under the Agency’s Collaborative Framework on Offshore Renewables.

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Empowering “Smart Cities” toward net zero emissions

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The world’s cities can play a central role to accelerate progress towards clean, low-carbon, resilient and inclusive energy systems. This idea is recognized by climate and energy ministers from G20 nations who will meet under the presidency of Italy in Naples to focus on steps that national governments can take to support urban areas to deploy solutions and technologies to reduce emissions.

New technologies and increased connectivity, as well as the sheer scale of the world’s metropolises, are opening up massive opportunities to optimise urban planning, improve services and extend access, while at the same time creating revenue streams, jobs and business ventures. In this context, the International Energy Agency developed a report at the request of the Italian G20 presidency to showcase the opportunities and challenges facing cities, and the actions that can be taken to support progress.

The IEA’s Empowering Cities for a Net Zero Future builds on extensive consultations with over 125 leading experts and organisations, and presents case studies from 100 cities in 40 countries. The examples illustrate the wide range of opportunities and solutions that can help city-level authorities make full use of efficient and smart energy systems.

At the same time, urban agglomerations are incubators for cutting-edge technologies, and their density and size offer economies of scale that can cut the cost of infrastructure and innovation. This mix of factors puts cities at the leading edge to come up with creative solutions to climate and energy challenges.

And with growing urbanisation trends, the central role of cities will keep increasing. Cities today account for more than 50% of the planet’s population, 80% of its economic output, two-thirds of global energy consumption and more than 70% of annual global carbon emissions. By 2050, more than 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, resulting in a massive demand growth for urban energy infrastructure.

From smart streetlamps to self-cooling buildings to smart electric car chargers, investing in city-level action can provide the biggest carbon-mitigation return on investment and accelerate inclusive clean energy transitions.

The new report contains a set of high-level recommendations to accelerate energy transitions and leverage the full potential of cities to reduce emissions thanks to digitalisation.

By 2024, an anticipated 83 billion connected devices and sensors will be creating large, diverse datasets on a wide range of topics, such as energy consumption, air quality, and traffic patterns. Next-generation energy systems can leverage the data from these connected buildings, appliances and transportation systems to reduce energy consumption, improve grid stability and better manage city services. 

For example, digital simulations can show how different designs, technologies and equipment affect energy demand pathways and associated costs. The LA100 study, conducted by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, points the way towards achieving a 100% renewables-supplied city by 2045. The study simulates thousands of buildings, using aerial scans, customer adoption models as well as utility planning tools to ensure power system stability, and estimates that these measures would avoid between USD 472 million and USD 1.55 billion in distribution network investments.

The electricity consumed in street lighting globally is equivalent to Germany’s total annual electricity consumption, and can constitute up to 65% of municipal electricity budgets. Yet only 3% of the globe’s 320 million street lighting poles are smart enabled, even though smart street lighting can reduce electricity use by up to 80% by adjusting output based on ambient light levels and weather. Smart street lamps can also monitor traffic, pedestrian crossings, and noise and air pollution, as well as incorporate electric car chargers and cell phone infrastructure.

India, under its National Streetlighting Programme, has reduced peak energy demand by more than 1000 MW thanks to 10 million smart LED streetlights. Digitalisation can also help improve maintenance. In Italy, an app developed by Enel X allows citizens to report street lighting faults using their smartphones.

To reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, Jakarta’s Smart City initiative integrated public transport management and payment systems to help plan a more reliable, safe and affordable rapid bus transit system. Under PT JakLingko Indonesia, this comprehensive integration process increased the number of Transjakarta commuters from about 400 000 per day in December 2017 to just over 1 million per day in February 2020.

Vancouver, Canada, now requires every residential parking space in new developments to feature electricity outlets to charge electric vehicles. Meanwhile, digitalisation can shift around 60% of the generation capacity needed to charge these vehicles away from peak demand times. Smart traffic management systems can reduce congestion by 8%.

As economies recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, CO2 emissions are rebounding rapidly. The increase in global energy-related CO2 in 2021 could be the second largest in recorded history. Cities are the globe’s economic engine, and the solutions they seek can transform the energy landscape by creating new synergies to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency, enhance resilience and provide a cleaner prosperous future for us all. Strong international cooperation and collaboration can play a crucial role in this, notably through emerging knowledge-sharing networks that span cities and countries. 

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Global emissions are set to surge to an all-time high

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Governments worldwide are deploying an unprecedented amount of fiscal support aimed at stabilising and rebuilding their economies, but only about 2% of this spending has been allocated to clean energy measures, according to new analysis from the International Energy Agency.

The sums of money, both public and private, being mobilised worldwide by recovery plans fall well short of what is needed to reach international climate goals. These shortfalls are particularly pronounced in emerging and developing economies, many of which face particular financing challenges.

Under governments’ current recovery spending plans, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are set to climb to record levels in 2023 and continue rising in the following years. This would leave the world far from the pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050 that the IEA set out in its recent Global Roadmap to Net Zero.

These findings come from the new Sustainable Recovery Tracker that the IEA launched today to help policy makers assess how far recovery plans are moving the needle on climate. The new online tool is a contribution to the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Environment, Climate and Energy in Naples, which takes place on 22 and 23 July under the Presidency of Italy.

The Tracker monitors government spending allocated to sustainable recoveries and then estimates how much this spending boosts overall clean energy investment and to what degree this affects the trajectory of global CO2 emissions. The Tracker considers over 800 national sustainable recovery policies in its analysis, which are publicly available on the IEA website.

“Since the Covid-19 crisis erupted, many governments may have talked about the importance of building back better for a cleaner future, but many of them are yet to put their money where their mouth is. Despite increased climate ambitions, the amount of economic recovery funds being spent on clean energy is just a small sliver of the total,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director.

Governments have mobilised USD 16 trillion in fiscal support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, most of it focused on emergency financial relief for households and firms. Only 2% of the total is earmarked for clean energy transitions.

In the early phases of the pandemic, the IEA released the Sustainable Recovery Plan, which recommended USD 1 trillion of spending globally on clean energy measures that could feature prominently in recovery plans. According to the Plan – developed in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund – this spending would boost global economic growth, create millions of jobs and put the world on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

According to the Tracker, all the key sectors highlighted in the IEA Sustainable Recovery Plan are receiving inadequate attention from policy makers. Current government plans would only increase total public and private spending on clean energy to around USD 350 billion a year by 2023 – only 35% of what is envisaged in the Plan.

The Tracker shows the stark geographic disparities that are emerging in clean energy investment. The majority of funds are being mobilised in advanced economies, which are nearing 60% of the investment levels envisaged in the Sustainable Recovery Plan. Emerging and developing economies, many of which have limited fiscal leeway, have so far mobilised only about 20% of the recommended spending levels.

“Not only is clean energy investment still far from what’s needed to put the world on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century, it’s not even enough to prevent global emissions from surging to a new record. Many countries – especially those where the needs are greatest – are also missing the benefits that well planned clean energy investment brings, such as stronger economic growth, new jobs and the development of the energy industries of the future,” Dr Birol said

“Governments need to increase spending and policy action rapidly to meet the commitments they made in Paris in 2015 – including the vital provision of financing by advanced economies to the developed world,” Dr Birol added. “But they must then go even further by leading clean energy investment and deployment to much greater heights beyond the recovery period in order to shift the world onto a pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050, which is narrow but still achievable – if we act now.”

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