Energy efficiency is an essential part of efforts to slash global CO2 emissions

8 March 2011

Improving energy efficiency and decarbonising the power and transportation sectors are essential steps which must be introduced to achieve a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, emphasised Ambassador Jones in his speech on 5 March at the Windsor Energy Group (WEG) annual consultation.

As part of efforts to decarbonise the power sector, Ambassador Jones stressed that aggressive investments would be required in nuclear, Carbon Capture and Storage, and renewable energy.

In moving towards decarbonising the transportation sector, the Deputy Executive Director said that improved vehicle efficiency is needed as well as the mass introduction of electric vehicles.

‘Quiet giant’

It is, however, energy efficiency which holds the key to reducing global CO2 emissions, according to Ambassador Jones. “The most important option in both the short and longer term is improving energy efficiency, which is often called the ‘quiet giant,’” he said. “End-use efficiency accounts for 38% of total emissions reduction in 2050.”

Ambassador Jones added: “The transition to a low-carbon economy will not only tackle climate change, but can also provide energy security benefits for many countries that are heavily dependent on fossil energy imports.”

The theme for the WEG gathering, which took place on 4-6 March at Windsor Castle in the United Kingdom, was ‘Global energy uncertainties – finding new directions’.

Other key participants included Lord Howell, Minister of State at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Honorary Chairman of the WEG; Christof Ruehl, Chief Economist at BP; Dr Carole Nakhle, Director of Access for Women in Energy; and Professor William Arnold from the Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University in the US.

Scenarios

During his presentation, Ambassador Jones shared some of the key messages from the IEA’s Energy Technology Perspective 2010. In this publication, IEA experts outlined two contrasting scenarios: the first assumes that governments will introduce no new energy and climate policies and the second sets the goal of halving global energy- related CO2 emissions by 2050 (compared to 2005 levels) and examines the least expensive way of achieving that goal through he deployment of existing and new low-carbon technologies.

If the latter, more upbeat scenario is realised, Ambassador Jones explained that “the world’s dependency on fossil fuels in primary energy consumption will be reduced from 81% today to 46% in 2050.”

He said: “Coal, oil and gas demand in 2050 are all lower than today [in this positive scenario]. For instance, global oil consumption is reduced by about 27% in 2050 compared to current levels. This saving is roughly equivalent to the present annual oil consumption of the US and Canada combined.”

Key questions:

What is energy efficiency?
A way of managing and restraining the growth in energy consumption. Something is more energy efficient if it delivers more services for the same energy input, or the same services for less energy input. For example, when a compact florescent light (CFL) bulb uses less energy than an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light, the CFL is considered to be more energy efficient.

What is energy security?
The uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price.

What is carbon capture and storage?
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a group of technologies used to reduce CO2 emissions from large CO2 sources such as fossil fuel or biomass power generation and industrial processes such as cement, iron and steel and fertilizer manufacturing. Following the capture of CO2 it is then transported and stored in specifically selected and characterised geological formations over 1000m below the ground. Parts of the CCS chain have been used in industry for many decades however the complete process has only been demonstrated at a commercial scale at five locations around the world.

Photo: © IEA