Investment in energy efficiency has reached at least $310 billion (£192bn), while the “invisible powerhouse” has saved a continent’s worth of energy consumption, according to a new report.
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The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Energy Efficiency Market Report 2014 has revealed that in 2012 investment in energy efficiency initiatives surpassed supply-side investment in both renewable electricity and fossil fuel electricity generation.
The IEA says its figures prove that energy efficiency has transitioned from a niche investment to an established one, while public money, such as that invested by the UK Green Investment Bank, is also boosting the sector.
This growth is forecast to continue, with energy efficiency finance expanding thanks to new products, such as green bonds, and increasing investor interest.
The market report also calculates that in the decade up to 2011, energy efficiency saved more energy than is consumed in a whole year in the US, the EU, or China. Improved efficiency in just 18 countries – including the UK, Germany and the US – reduced energy demand by 5% in 2011 compared to 2001 levels.
Such a proportion is hugely significant, as in 2011 alone the 18 IEA countries saved around 1.5 times as much energy as was consumed in the UK in 2013.
At a time when developing countries are rapidly scaling up their industrial economies, these savings and subsequent emissions cuts provide a boost to the fight to stop climate change, the report suggests.
In emerging markets too the potential for energy efficiency savings are said to be considerable, with efficient vehicles and transport a major opportunity.
“Energy efficiency is the invisible powerhouse in IEA countries and beyond, working behind the scenes to improve our energy security, lower our energy bills and move us closer to reaching our climate goals,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven.
“As energy efficiency is essential to meeting our climate goals while supporting economic growth, the increasing use of finance is a welcome development.”
Figures released earlier this week also revealed that tougher energy efficiency targets could boost the UK economy by £62 billion and create as many as 40,000 new jobs.
The figures, part of an EU costs and benefit assessment disclosed after an access to information request, hailed the potential benefits of a 40% cut in energy consumption by 2030.
EU leaders will decide this month on binding climate targets, with a 2030 energy efficiency target of just 30% thought to be the most likely outcome. Critics have condemned such a target as being unambitious.
Photo: Ewan Munro via Flickr