According to expert reports, energy intensity improved both world-wide and in Europe.

Good news from the energy markets are spare, but they do come. The latest pieces are on the energy efficiency.

According to two reports, energy efficiency has progressed both world-wide and in Europe. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says energy intensity improved by 1.8 percent around the world last year. And the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission declares that the European Union has already reached its 2020 target of a 20-percent reduction.

Gains in spite of low energy prices

IEA’s report published at this week’s World Energy Council in Istanbul, “Energy Efficiency Market Report 2016”, highlights the progress from a 1.5-percent gain in 2014 to a 1.8-percent gain in 2015. The latest figure is triple the average rate seen over the past decade, IEA concludes.

“What’s more, last year’s gains were achieved in spite of the lower energy prices, which generally dampen the enthusiasm for energy savings,” the report says.

IEA sees, however, an important challenge. The improvements in global energy intensity need to reach at least 2.6 percent “to put the world on a sustained pathway for a decarbonized energy system.”

The progress in China

Energy intensity decreased faster in the non-OECD countries, a trend which the IEA expects to continue.

OECD’s energy body sheds light on the case of China, whose energy efficiency improved by 5.6 percent in 2015, up from the annual rate of 3.1 percent in the previous decade. While Chinese economy grew by 6.9 percent, its energy demand grew by just 0.9 percent.

IEA’s report “demonstrates the central role of government policy in driving energy efficiency”, the latter being “a critical ‘fuel’ in the transition to low-carbon economy.

The overachieving EU

As for the European Union, it has reached its 2020 energy efficiency target six years earlier. In 2008, it committed – under the 2020 goals – to decrease energy consumption by 20 percent (as compared to 1990). The JRC found this happened already in 2014.

Industry cut its energy consumption by 17.6 percent followed by the residential sector at -9.52 percent. Energy needs were, on the contrary, increased in transport (+2.2 percent) and in services (+16.5 percent).

While the economic and financial crisis played an important role in industry, the improvement in the residential sector is a result, at least in part, of public policies focused on building and appliance characteristics as well as of consumers’ behaviour.

Europe’s 2030 target

The EU has already started discussing the target for 2030. In 2014, the European Council agreed the bloc would increase its energy efficiency by at least 27 percent. European Commission’s draft revision of the Energy Efficiency target, leaked last September to Reuters, foresees a more ambitious goal: 30 percent.

The European Commission sees energy efficiency in the context of energy costs, security as well as in relation to the Paris Agreement entering into force in November. In December, the European Commission will propose the revised Directive, but also special measures on buildings and funding.

It will be clearer by then who will have to pitch in for the next good news to come in.


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The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 785277.