The International Energy Agency (IEA) has identified energy efficiency as a ‘key option’ and ‘game changer’ in placing the global energy system onto a more sustainable path.

The IEA's World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2012 states that despite energy efficiency being widely recognised as one of the easiest and lowest-cost options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, disappointingly slow progress has been made in improving global energy efficiency over the past decade.

The WEO highlights that rapid deployment of energy efficient technologies would be more than offset by reduced fuel expenditures and will allow more time to secure a global agreement to cut greenhouse emissions.

Beyond that, it provides a number of benefits including decreased pressure on networks by lowering peak demand, decreased input costs for business and lower household energy bills.

The WEO highlights that much of the world’s energy efficiency potential remains unharnessed. Specifically, around four fifths of the energy efficiency potential in the buildings sector and more than half in industry is not being tapped. The WEO identifies that this potential could be unlocked by taking action to remove barriers obstructing the implementation of energy efficiency measures which are economically viable and technologically available now.

Key IEA recommendations

According to WEO 2012, the profile of energy efficiency needs to be raised, so that efficiency concerns are integrated into decision making throughout government, industry and society.

  • Policy makers need to improve the affordability of energy efficiency, by creating and supporting business models, financing vehicles and incentives to ensure that investors reap an appropriate share of the rewards.
  • By deploying a mix of regulations to discourage the least-efficient approaches and incentives to deploy the most efficient, governments can help push energy-efficient technologies into the mainstream.
  • Monitoring, verification and enforcement activities are essential to realise expected energy savings.
  • Greater investment in energy efficiency governance and administrative capacity at all levels

Further reading

WEO 2012 Executive Summary

Interview with Fatih Birol, IEA Chief Economist and Director of Global Energy Economics, on the potential of energy efficiency.