Improving energy efficiency has long been advocated as a way to increase the productivity and sustainability of society, primarily through the delivery of energy savings. The impact of energy efficiency measures can go far beyond energy savings, and energy efficiency improvements can be an important contributor to economic growth and social development.
Benefits attributed to the implementation of energy efficiency measures range from localised benefits, such as energy affordability, improved health, wellbeing and social development, to sectoral benefits, such as industrial productivity, improved asset values and reduced environmental damage. Macroeconomic outcomes such as national competitiveness, jobs, consumer surplus and energy security, as well as poverty alleviation and greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation in both developed and developing countries, are further associated with energy efficiency measures. Significant evidence is emerging on the extent to which these outcomes stem from energy efficiency policies. At the same time, evaluation experts are beginning to explore ways to quantify them so that they can be more readily assessed alongside energy savings. Expanding evaluation to such matters could offer a new perspective on energy efficiency measures and, by improving the cost/benefit assessment of energy efficiency programs, could help decision-makers reconcile perceived trade-offs between supporting economic growth and reducing energy use.
This paper makes a preliminary assessment of the scope of the most significant of the multiple benefits and discusses the potentially large implications for energy efficiency policy as part of a wider socioeconomic strategy.