CO2= P (people) x S (services per person) x E (energy per service) x C (CO2 per unit of energy). This equation is probably nothing new to you. But what does it really mean?

Let’s look at the first two data points in 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 recent United Nations report. Combined with longer life expectancy and improved quality of life in emerging economies such as India, China and Brazil, the increase in energy demand is inevitable. In other words, as people and services increase, we can expect CO2 emissions to follow (source UN).

How can we prevent such a scenario?

To avoid such a catastrophic scenario, we can still act on the other two elements of the equation: energy and emissions. Today, more than 90% of our energy comes from fossil fuels. This means that our energy supply generates CO2 emissions. In addition, it is known that more than 30% of energy is wasted through inefficient use (mainly in buildings and industry).

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

  • an energy efficiency target of 32.5% for 2030, with an upward revision clause until 2023
  • a renewable energy target of 32%.

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

  • Smart technologies will be further promoted, e.g. through requirements for the installation of building automation and control systems and devices for room-level temperature control.

  • Electromobility will be supported by introducing minimum requirements for car parks above a certain size and other minimum infrastructure for smaller buildings (in the case of electromobility, a system that monitors the charging of electric vehicles together with the energy consumption and production of buildings brings added value).

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

Are such measures really efficient?

THEY ARE! Official statistics show it. Since 2000, electricity demand has increased by around 70%, and in 2017, global electricity demand increased by a further 3%. But while global demand growth has been strong, there are big differences between regions. In recent years, electricity demand in advanced economies has started to level off, or in some cases decline.

There are a number of new sources of electricity demand growth in advanced economies, including digitalisation and the electrification of heating and mobility. Energy savings from energy efficiency measures have outpaced this growth. Energy efficiency measures adopted since 2000 have saved around 20% of total current electricity consumption.

More than 40% of the decline in electricity demand is due to energy efficiency in industry. Without energy efficiency improvements, electricity demand in advanced economies would have grown by 1.6% per year since 2010, instead of 0.3%.


Looking ahead, the pace of electrification in advanced economies will accelerate. However, in the New Policies Scenario, electricity demand growth is projected to stagnate. In conclusion, energy efficiency improvements will continue to act as a brake on demand growth. And it is the only way to counterbalance growing energy dependence.

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