The largest energy source for the world between 1974 and 2010? Think hard and think smart. It wasn't coal, oil or even renewable energy.
If we all put in a bit of effort, the largest source of energy could well be energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency contributed 63 exajoules (EJ) of avoided energy use in 2010 – that’s larger than the supply of oil (43 EJ), electricity or natural gas (22 EJ each), said a first- ever “Energy Efficiency Market report.” This was not an overnight achievement, but the benefit of investments made by 11 countries in consciously being more energy efficient since 1973.
So, solving the world problems of depleting energy sources and more environmentally hazardous way of extracting oil seems quite simple today: energy saved is like energy produced.
Energy efficiency has been called a “hidden fuel, yet it is hiding in plain sight,” IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven said, as she presented at the World Energy Congress in Korea.
Interestingly, in 2012 the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked the UK first among the world’s 12 largest economies for reducing pollution in industry, transport and buildings. The study calculated each country’s efforts to reduce energy use in these areas which combined make for the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in developed economies, as well as overall policies.
The UK took the top place for energy savings primarily in industry and transport. The US was placed at number nine. But not even the large economies truly understand the potential of energy efficiency, was the council’s conclusion.
There is still a world of opportunity out there for improved energy use in buildings and transport. To put the savings in perspective, let’s see some numbers. The report reckons 11 countries made energy savings equal to $420 billion, higher than from any other single fuel source. Essentially, instead of ploughing in billions of funds into finding more energy, we can definitely spend millions in making our appliances, systems and cities work more efficiently.
It’s heartening that young countries like the United Arab Emirates are looking for and discussing ways to be more efficient. The capital city of Abu Dhabi has set energy efficient and environmentally-friendly requirements for all new developments including communities, villas, schools and offices. These requirements are measured through a new green building rating system known as the Estidama Pearl Rating System. Such measures are gaining traction in the country, which in the past was not particularly known for saving energy.
With dwindling world resources, energy efficiency can no longer be a topic just for academics. Here is where ABB scores as a company, as energy efficiency is not an after-thought – it‘s a core value.