Boosting energy-efficiency commitments 'would produce enormous payoffs'

Boosting energy-efficiency commitments 'would produce enormous payoffs'

RWE's Gwynt y Mor, the world's 2nd largest offshore wind farm located eight miles offshore in Liverpool Bay, off the coast of North Wales. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

There will be “enormous payoffs” if governments commit to doubling their energy-efficiency commitments at the forthcoming UN summit on climate change, an Irish renewable energy expert has said.

Head of energy efficiency at the International Energy Agency (IEA) Brian Motherway said the upcoming Cop28 climate summit in Dubai is crucial to keeping open the path to net zero — the balancing of the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

Energy efficiency essentially means using less energy to perform the same task, thereby eliminating energy waste but also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, demand for energy imports, and lowering household and business costs.

In his IEA analysis, Mr Motherway wrote that, as well as getting countries to commit to the tripling of renewable energy capacity by 2030, and an orderly decline in the use of fossil fuels, doubling the rate of energy-efficiency progress this decade is also crucial.

“The goals of doubling energy efficiency progress and tripling renewable capacity, alongside a 75% cut in energy sector methane emissions, and a massive ramp-up in the electrification of heating and transport, would together account for 80% of emissions reductions needed this decade to meet the 2050 target,” he said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the spiking of energy costs worldwide last year led to governments focusing on energy efficiency, which already has reaped rewards, Mr Motherway added.

“IEA analysis shows that new or strengthened efficiency measures were introduced in countries representing over 70% of the global economy," he said. "As a result, the world has seen record investment in energy efficiency, while consumer interest in reducing energy use is higher than ever.

“Due to these measures, global energy intensity — a measure of how efficiently the global economy uses energy — improved by just over 2% in 2022.

This means that a unit of energy consumed in 2022 generated 2% more economic output than it did in 2021. 

"At more than twice the improvement rate of the previous four years, this was a welcome step.

“However, doubling energy efficiency progress going forward means increasing this rate of improvement twofold, to just over 4% on average every year between now and 2030.

“This would mean that in 2030, one unit of energy used will generate 40% more economic output,” he wrote.

Describing the payoffs as “enormous”, Mr Motherway said that few other policy areas offer such widespread benefits.

“Achieving this target would lead to energy savings in 2030 equivalent to all the oil that the global road transport sector consumed in 2022,” he said.

Cop28 is the latest iteration in the UN climate change summit, where government leaders and stakeholders from around the world come together to form a consensus on how to tackle the burgeoning climate crisis.

This year’s event in Dubai has been criticised by environmental groups, including Irish NGOs.

Cop28 in Dubai will be headed up by Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber as its president, who also serves as the UAE’s climate envoy. He is also head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), the 12th-largest oil-producing firm in the world.


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