Oh Yeah, Efficiency…Of Course.
When I was at the UN Climate Change Conference last year in Madrid, I heard about a number of reports or tools that could help governments develop a roadmap to achieve the 1.5C target by 2050. Many of these are technology-oriented and focus on innovations such as energy storage and carbon capture and storage while others are policy-oriented, focusing on regulatory and market-based interventions. The one thing they all seem to have in common is a lack of focus on energy efficiency. When asked about the role of energy efficiency in the climate solution, the answer was invariably an afterthought: “Oh yeah, efficiency…of course.”
One of the most impressive tools I saw was from Climate Interactive, which included a nod to efficiency. Climate Interactive creates scientifically rigorous tools that support interactive scenario analysis for evaluating climate solutions and other global challenges. The user interface includes 18 interactive sliders that address policy and technology adoption in energy supply, transportation, buildings, industry, land, carbon removal, and growth. Two of the sliders involve energy efficiency in transportation, buildings, and industry. When I asked about the relative importance of energy efficiency compared to all of the other levers, the answer was “there is no scenario which achieves the 1.5C target without maximizing energy efficiency.” This is exactly the point - efficiency isn’t a given, it is an urgent and critical priority that requires moving all the sliders to the right.
Most climate analysis suggests that we need an “all of the above” strategy to hit our climate goals, which generally refers to renewables, energy storage, electric vehicles, hydrogen, renewable fuels, carbon capture, and oh yeah, efficiency. When there’s a fire, you don’t step over a bucket of water to run out and buy a smoke detector or start installing a sprinkler system…you toss the bucket of water on the fire! Efficiency is the bucket of water, and the buckets are large, refillable, and everywhere.
The all of the above climate solution priority list needs to start with efficiency codes and standards, efficiency innovation, efficiency finance, efficiency incentives, efficient vehicles, efficient buildings, and efficient infrastructure. We need to declare an efficiency emergency and start deploying an efficiency bucket brigade before it’s too late to put out the fire.
To learn more about the policies, technologies, and tools that can be immediately deployed to address the efficiency emergency, please join us at the 2020 Energy Efficiency Global Forum in Washington, DC on April 28-29.