The IEA (International Energy Agency) has published its Energy Efficiency 2020 report, as the latest in its annual overviews of worldwide developments in energy efficiency. The report gives a comprehensive appraisal of the issue through the analysis of energy data, policy decisions and technological trends.
These yearly updates by the IEA are always worth studying, but last year provided unique circumstances due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The IEA states that: “Since 2015, global improvements in energy efficiency, as measured by primary energy intensity, have been declining. The Covid-19 crisis adds an extra level of stress. As a result of the crisis and continuing low energy prices, energy intensity is expected to improve by only 0.8% in 2020, roughly half the rates, corrected for weather, for 2019 (1.6%) and 2018 (1.5%). This is well below the level needed to achieve global climate and sustainability goals.”
The pandemic has had dramatic effects on the priorities of the present and has created a huge degree of uncertainty about the future. The economic crisis caused by Covid-19 restrictions is likely to delay new investment in energy efficient technologies, with business spending on efficiency measures “facing pressure as energy prices remain low.”
Building back better
In our previous blog entry late last year, we stated that: “When the pandemic ends, energy efficiency improvements will be more important than ever.” The idea of an end to the risk of coronavirus seems, with the passing of time, to have been over-optimistic. The virus has shown it has the ability to mutate at an alarming rate and it may well remain an unwelcome presence requiring regular vaccination programmes to keep it at bay.
However, we believe that the key element of that statement remains true. Energy efficiency not only benefits environmental sustainability but also reduces operating costs for businesses and households alike. It can be seen as an aid rather than a hindrance to economic recovery.
Having described the negative impact of Covid-19 on energy efficiency developments, the IEA also adds a note of optimism: “On the other hand, the socio-economic benefits of energy efficiency are now becoming widely recognised. Governments are starting to rise to the challenge of “building back better” from this crisis, announcing billions of dollars in stimulus spending to increase energy efficiency, particularly in buildings and transport.”
Hopefully, this policy of “building back better” will be a lasting legacy of Covid-19. Governments worldwide have found a common purpose in fighting the pandemic, and if similar global efforts were applied to actions on energy efficiency, the results could be very significant.