Dec. 2 (BP) — This year could mark a turning point in energy efficiency,helping the global economy move closer to net-zero emissions, the International Energy Agency said Friday.
The IEA’s preliminary data show global energy efficiency improved by 2% this year from 2021, a rate that’s four times as high as the average over the last two years and nearly double the rate over the past five years.
“If the current rate of progress can be built upon further in the coming years, then 2022 could mark a vital turning point for efficiency, which is one of the key areas for international efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050,” an IEA report read.
The IEA pointed to the electrification of transportation and heating as signs of improvement in energy efficiency. One of every eight new vehicles sold is now electric, data show, while European consumers bought 3 million heat pumps this year, compared with 1.5 million in 2019.
In the United States, the federal Department of Health and Human Services announced plans in early November to offer $4.5 billion to help low-income families pay their bills and make any necessary energy-related repairs. Another tranche of funding supported a rebate program for heat pumps, something the government said holds “tremendous promise to lower energy costs for all American families — saving up to $500 in energy bills every year.”
Parts of U.S. President Joe Biden’s signature Inflation Reduction Act, meanwhile, include financial incentives for electric vehicles in the form of tax credits. Combined with similar relief programs in the EU and in Japan, the IEA found major economies are spending “hundreds of billions of dollars” on energy efficiency.
“The oil shocks of the 1970s led to a massive push by governments on energy efficiency, resulting in substantial improvements in the energy efficiency of cars, appliances and buildings,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Amid today’s energy crisis, we are seeing signs that energy efficiency is once again being prioritized.”
Energy efficiency efforts taken since 2000 have led to a $680 billion reduction in global energy bills, the IEA found. But in line with rhetoric from this year’s COP27 environmental summit, the agency said much of that relief is concentrated in advanced economies, leaving emerging and developing economies struggling to catch up.
Leaders at the summit acknowledged the difficulty in asking any country to provide financial aid amid the pressures of inflation and high energy prices that have racked the global economy all year.