Global progress in energy efficiency has returned to pre-pandemic rates this year, but that is already far from helping put the world on track to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century, the International Energy Agency said.
According to the IEA report, the total annual global investment in energy efficiency would need to triple by 2030 to align with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
“We consider energy efficiency to be ‘fuel number one’ because it still represents the cleanest way and, in most cases, the cheapest way to meet our energy needs. Without more efficient use of our energy resources, there is no viable pathway to net-zero emissions,” said Fatih Birol, IEA executive director.
“A step-change in energy efficiency would give us the opportunity to avoid the worst effects of climate change while creating millions of decent jobs and reducing energy bills.”
The report notes that the government has expanded existing job-intensive efficiency programs, but also highlights the huge untapped potential for job creation. For example, energy efficiency investments in buildings are expected to increase by 20 percent in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels.
After the worst year in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic shifted the center of economic activity from services to industry, and the rate of improvement in global energy intensity — a key indicator of energy efficiency used by world economic activity — is expected to recover to 1.9 percent in 2021. This is in line with the average of the past decade, but well below the 4 percent requirement set out in the IEA’s pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050.