Energy saving technologies including better light bulbs have helped the world improve its energy efficiency in 2015

China leads energy efficiency improvements around the world

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 2015 the world’s energy efficiency improved by 1.8 per cent, a record high, but it still falls short of levels required to reverse climate change.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the improvements were the most obvious in developing countries, with China being the 2015 energy efficiency champion. 

In 2015, the economy of the east Asian superpower squeezed out of one energy unit 5.6 per cent of its gross domestic product more than a year earlier. The 2014 improvement amounted to 3.1 per cent. While China’s economy grew by 6.9 per cent in 2015, primary energy demand increased by only 0.9 per cent – the lowest rate since 1997.

Singlehandedly, China improved the world’s energy efficiency average by 0.4 per cent. However, the global improvement, which took place despite the drop in energy prices, is not enough, according to IEA. In its Energy Efficiency Market Report 2016 the agency said the global economy needs to be improving its energy efficiency by 2.6 per cent a year to meet climate change targets.

The 2015 improvement, though, is three times as high as the average rate seen over the past decade.

“Energy efficiency is the one energy resource that all countries possess in abundance,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA executive director. “I welcome the improvement in global energy efficiency, particularly at a time of lower energy prices. This is a sign that many governments push the energy efficiency policies, and it works.”

The past year's progress indicates that global energy efficiency policies have the desired effect. For example, car fuel economy standards helped save 2.3 million barrels of oil a day, equivalent to 2.5 per cent of the global oil supply.

Such savings were achieved despite the collapsing price of oil driving up demand for inefficient light duty trucks. In the US alone, sales of these vehicles have reached an all-time high of 9.5 million. Thanks to valid fuel economy standards these vehicles were 9 per cent more efficient than in 2010.

Further areas of improvement included housing standards and more efficient lighting technologies.

According to IEA, the agency member states saved $540bn in energy costs in 2015 as a result of energy efficiency improvements achieved since 2000.

Efficiency standards now cover 30 per cent of energy use globally, up from 11 per cent in 2000.

According to IEA, over a third of all emissions reductions needed to reach climate goals by 2040 have to come from energy efficiency policies.

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