CO2 and energy efficiency : what is the scenario?

CO2= P (people) x S (services per person) x E (energy per service) x C (CO2 per unit energy). This equation is probably not new to you. But what is really behind it?

Let’s have a look at the first two data of the equation, People and Services : the current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to a new United Nations report. If we sum the higher life expectancy, the improved quality of life in emerging countries such as India, China, Brazil, the increase in energy demand is ineluctable. In other words, with People and Services increasing, we can expect CO2 emissions to follow the curb (source UN).

How can we prevent such a scenario?

In order to prevent such catastrophic scenario, we can still act on the two other elements of the equation: energy and emissions. Today, still more than 90% of our energy is supplied by fossil fuel (source IEA). This means, our energy supply generates CO2 emissions. What is more, it is known that more than 30% of energy is wasted due to ineficcient usage (mainly in buildings and industrial sectors).

In response, a number of legislative instruments have been introduced. The new EU regulatory framework (the new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Renewable energy directive) intends to improve the situation with a comprehensive approach. It sets targets related to the two last elements of the equation, Energy per service and CO2 per unit of energy produced:

  • an energy efficiency target for the 2030 of 32.5% with an upwards revision clause by 2023
  • a 32% renewable energy target.

Among the measures foreseen in the EPBD, we find two particularly interesting to us :

  • Smart technologies will be further promoted, for instance through requirements on the installation of building automation and control systems and on devices that regulate temperature at room level (read about related solutions here).
  • E-mobility will be supported by introducing minimum requirements for car parks over a certain size and other minimum infrastructure for smaller buildings (in the case of e-mobility, a system that monitors the charging of EVs together with the energy consumption and production of buildings brings added-value (read about related solution here)

With this framework, Europe will be equipped to complete the clean energy transition and meet the goals set by the Paris Agreement.

Are such measures really efficient?

YES! Official statistics show it. Electricity demand has increased by around 70% since 2000, and in 2017, global electricity demand increased by a further 3%. Yet while global demand growth has been strong, there are major disparities across regions. In recent years electricity demand in advanced economies has begun to flatten or in some cases decline.

There have been a range of new sources of electricity demand growth in advanced economies, including digitalization and the electrification of heat and mobility. Savings from energy efficiency measures have outpaced this growth. Energy efficiency measures adopted since 2000 saved around 20% of overall current electricity use (source IEA).

Over 40% of the slowdown in electricity demand was attributable to energy efficiency in industry. In the absence of energy efficiency improvements, electricity demand in advanced economies would have grown at 1.6% per year since 2010, instead of 0.3%.

When we look to the future, the pace of electrification is going to take off in advanced economies. Nevertheless, electricity demand growth is foreseen to stagnate in the scenario new policies are applied. In conclusion, we can say that improvements in energy efficiency continue to act as a brake on increasing demand (source IEA). And it is the only way to counterbalance the increasing dependency on energy.