The Best Energy Source: Energy Efficiency
If you ask IEA’s Dr. Fatih Birol what type of energy source he would place his bet on in the near future, his answer might surprise you. Dr. Birol is not betting on wind, hydropower, solar, or other forms of renewable energy – but on energy efficiency.
Amid projections of an energy renaissance in coming years – of which the US is set to be one of the top leaders in global energy production – the outlook on its impact on the environment is also gaining attention, but for a different reason. The projected rise in energy productions of the US and the Middle East together with increasing demands of Asian nations like China and India translate to an increase in carbon and greenhouse gases emissions. Fossil fuel energy sources remain major players in the global energy landscape while renewables lag behind, hampered by high costs and market barriers. And yet the increasingly perilous compromise between growing global energy market and its environmental costs is not going to stay balanced on the edge for long. If an alternative energy source is the answer to the energy crisis and its environmental consequences, which one will it be?
In an interview with OECD, IEA’s Chief Economist and Director of Global Energy Economics said that the best approach for developing a robust energy system requires a full suite of energy sources, instead of only one or two. But if he were to place a bet on one energy source, it would be energy efficiency.
According to Dr. Birol, energy efficiency, though not a tangible source like oil or hydropower, can be an effective way to meet growing energy demands worldwide. In IEA’s “Efficient World Scenario” this approach is applied using currently available technologies and practices instead of promising yet theoretical ones.
The Efficient World Scenario is based on the core assumption that economically viable investments on energy efficiency improvements are made and the known best technologies are systematically adopted. This approach will produce three major results: energy security, environmental benefit, and economic benefit.
Energy Security According to this scenario global energy demand will be reduced without the sacrifice of modern conveniences and services. The amount of energy saved would equal entire annual productions or demands of some nations. Also, fossil fuels like oil would be ideally used in increasingly exclusivity such as transport energy sources.
Economic Benefit The Efficient World Scenario would more than offset additional investments in energy efficiency through fuel expenditure savings. For example, IEA estimates a 20% saving in households’ and businesses’ fuel bills using this approach.
Environmental Benefit Along with reduction in emissions, the Efficient World Scenario buys time for governments and nations to extenuate climate change effects. IEA estimates the approach will delay the carbon emissions pathway to a projected 2°C increase in average global temperature by as much as five years. Improved energy efficiency will also lessen the environmental impacts of increased energy production worldwide.
The IEA’s Efficient World Scenario paints a promising picture of a world meeting its energy needs not through more resource, but through a smarter way to use them. Whether this scenario will play out in reality hangs upon the world’s resolve to consciously make choices that move toward sustainability, and to overcome temptations to spend energy resources at a heavy environmental cost.
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