The transition to a low carbon economy depends largely on increases in the efficiency of energy use – in buildings, transport, and industry – and on the efficiency of energy generation. Many policy instruments focus on these aspects; Energy Delta Institute provides information to help people remain up to date on new regulations, new technological opportunities and the contribution of new methods of collaboration. An introduction to energy efficiency is provided below, and additional resources include:
- A selection of "Top Energy Efficiency Papers"
- For a more extensive list of papers, see our publication database
- A selection of "Top Energy Efficiency Videos"
- A Wiki on various aspects of energy efficiency
- Efficiency case studies (business models, building retrofits, industry, transport, etc.)
An Introduction to Energy Efficiency
One component of energy transition is energy efficiency, represented by efforts on the demand side of the energy system to dampen demand growth and thus limit the expansion of supply side resources. Energy efficiency has different implications along the chain of energy conversion from the exploitation of primary resources to the delivery of the energy services a consumer desires. Three types of energy efficiency can be differentiated: 1) Conversion efficiency is related to the transformation of primary energy into secondary energy, as in a power plant. 2) Distribution efficiency is assessed on the delivery of secondary energy from the point of conversion (i.e. a power plant) to the point of end use (i.e. a computer). 3) The hedonic efficiency of converting delivered energy services into human welfare. The ultimate goal of any energy efficiency effort lies in the optimization of the whole system, ensuring that an increased amount of energy services (and thus human welfare) can be produced from the same amount of energy, or that the same amount of energy services and welfare can be produced from a decreasing amount of energy.
Various drivers are encouraging the adoption of energy efficiency measures, the most significant being its relatively low marginal cost when compared to expansions on the supply-side. Its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (as well as other pollutants) is also a powerful driver in light of current concerns regarding climate change. A massive energy efficiency effort also contains positive implications for economic and employment growth, which may prove particularly attractive in light of the economic crisis. Higher energy efficiency implies greater competitiveness in an economy as well as lower sensitivity to changes in energy prices. Aging infrastructure in developed countries and a build-up of modern infrastructure in developing countries is creating a unique opportunity to introduce energy efficiency technologies and strategies at a natural point in the replacement cycle. Each of these factors contributes to the creation of a fertile environment for implementation of energy efficiency measures.
The industrial, buildings, and transport sectors have their own unique connotations for energy efficiency both in relation to the methods and technology with which their efficiency potential can be accessed and the barriers to further implementation of these measures. This area of energy efficiency is often referred to as energy demand-side management or “EDSM.” Additionally, energy efficiency includes the supply and transmission domains of the energy service supply chain, with their own context. Each of these areas must be addressed in order to meet the ultimate goal of increasing the efficiency of energy service delivery through the energy supply chain.
The potential of energy efficiency has been widely recognized and ambitious targets for energy efficiency have been set within the EU through directives on energy use in buildings and resource efficiency, the “Energy Efficiency Plan 2011,” the labeling scheme for appliances, as well as the forthcoming directive on energy efficiency. Similar efforts are underway in other regions, and these policies imply a massive focus on energy efficiency. However, many barriers exist to the further implementation of energy efficiency measures and an effort is underway to overcome these barriers and investigate the wider implications of energy efficiency. Besides providing general information on energy efficiency, the EDIaal project aims to collect and present the latest developments in the field of energy efficiency as one of the six topics. This will range from energy efficiency strategies and technologies in the various sectors, to methods aimed at overcoming barriers, as well as related policy and legislation and efforts examining the larger implications of energy efficiency, including the rebound effect.