Energy efficiency is often the least-cost means of meeting new demand for energy. It encompasses many facets of day to day life, from energy use to transport to the machinery used for manufacturing. Yet it seems that there are few, if any, countries that are effectively covering all the bases, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) latest International Energy Efficiency Scorecard.
Energy efficiency scorecard
The Scorecard is aimed to give a snapshot of the energy efficiency performance of the world’s top energy consuming countries – in the 2016 edition, 23 countries, together representing 75% of all the energy consumed on the planet and over 80% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013.
Each country is assessed on 35 policy and performance metrics spread over four categories: buildings, industry, transportation and overall national energy efficiency efforts. Each category is allocated 25 points and the maximum number of points for each metric are awarded to at least one country, thereby normalizing each metric by its best performer.
The policy metrics highlight best practices implemented by a country, such as national energy savings targets, vehicle fuel economy standards, or energy efficiency standards for appliances. Performance metrics measure energy use per unit of activity or service extracted, for example, the average on-road miles per gallon (mpg) for passenger vehicles or the energy consumed per square foot of floor space in residential buildings.
In 2016 Germany earns the top score, with 73.5 out of 100 possible points. Following closely is Italy and Japan, tied for second with 68.5 points. Rounding out the top 5 are France with 67.5 points and UK with 65 points.
To achieve its ranking Germany scored the most points in the national efforts, buildings, and industry categories, but came 10th in transportation (tied with Netherlands, Poland and US). In transportation India, Italy and Japan tied in first place. Japan also achieved second place for national efforts and industry but 14th for buildings, while the US – which was ranked 8th overall tied with South Korea – took the second spot for buildings.
Conversely at the opposite end of the scale are South Africa, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, with the latter, with 15.5 points, also scoring last for national efforts, industry and transportation and second last for buildings.
Energy efficiency opportunity
According to the Scorecard’s authors, there has been an overall improvement in scores in this latest edition. Nevertheless, with the average score at just over 51 and the considerable variability by category, clearly there is considerably more that all countries, not only the lower scoring developing countries but also the more developed ones, can and should be doing to become more energy efficient.
At the sectoral level, based on the straight averages energy efficiency is most advanced in industry and least in transportation (respectively 13.7 and 11.7 out of 25). Thus more needs to be done particularly in transportation, where the top score also was a mere 16 points.
Best practices highlight the importance of policy and spending in advancing energy efficiency. For example, Germany spends $318 per capita on energy efficiency and almost $5 per capita on energy efficiency R&D.
“Energy efficiency plays a key role in Germany’s energy policy, the Energiewende, which aims to achieve a highly efficient and almost carbon neutral economy by 2050 at the latest,” commented Georg Maue, German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy Senior Advisor for General Issues of Energy Efficiency. He adds that the latest programme, the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE), focuses on innovative industrial processes, energy efficient buildings and products, and long-term investments
“We will continue to step up our efforts, as there is a long way to go for us to reach our target of reducing the energy demand by 50% by 2050.”
Says Steven Nadal, ACEEE executive director: “Governments that encourage investment in energy efficiency and implement supporting policies save citizens money, reduce dependence on energy imports and reduce pollution. Yet energy efficiency remains massively underutilized globally, despite its proven multiple benefits and its potential to become the single largest resource to meet growing energy demand worldwide.”