Oct 19, 2018

The huge, untapped potential of energy efficiency

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

A much larger investment in deployment of existing energy efficiency technologies and stronger policy measures would enable major progress toward meeting the goals of the Paris climate deal, the International Energy Agency said in a new report.

Why it matters: Nothing of the sort is happening right now, and in fact progress in energy efficiency is slowing, IEA warned.

What they found: The report lays out an "efficient world scenario" (EWS) — one that enables in gains in buildings, transportation, industry and buildings — to help energy-related emissions peak in 2020 and then fall significantly.

"Our study shows that the right efficiency policies could alone enable the world to achieve more than 40% of the emissions cuts needed to reach its climate goals without requiring new technology."
Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, via statement

By the numbers: The scenario envisions global investment of $584 billion annually through 2025, rising to $1.3 trillion annually in 2026–2040 — but nothing on that scale is happening today.

  • In fact, the report finds that expansion of conservation policies — such as incentives and efficiency standards —has slowed.
  • Global energy efficiency investment grew by 3% to $236 billion last year. That's far, far below the levels in the EWS scenario.
Screenshot of chart in IEA report "Energy Efficiency 2018"

And as seen in the chart above, there's been higher energy demand growth in the last year than in the recent past.

Put it all together and global energy intensity — an efficiency metric based on energy used per unit of GDP — fell by its smallest amount since 2010 last year, IEA said.

Go deeper

The coronavirus is Trump's slow-burn crisis

Photo: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images

At 6:30 p.m. from the White House press room, President Trump will publicly make himself the face of America's response to the coronavirus crisis.

Why it matters: This is exactly the situation where a president needs the credibility to truthfully explain a tough situation to the public.

Obama demands South Carolina stations stop airing misleading anti-Biden ad

Photo: Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Former President Obama's office is calling on South Carolina TV stations to stop running a misleading attack ad by a pro-Trump super PAC that uses Obama's voice out of context to make it appear as if he is criticizing Joe Biden and Democrats on race.

Why it matters: It's a rare intervention by Obama, whose former vice president is facing a critical primary in South Carolina on Saturday. Obama has said he has no plans to endorse in the Democratic field.

The megatrends that will shape the 21st century

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

An enormous amount of change has been crammed into the first two decades of the 21st century — but what’s coming next will break every speed record.

The big picture: The world is being buffeted by rapid yet uneven advances in technology that will revamp work and what it means to be human. At the same time, fundamental demographic changes will alter democracies and autocracies alike while the effects of climate change accumulate, physically redrawing our globe.