The state of buildings’ energy performance, and what needs to be done

23 November 2015

A new report co-written by the International Energy Agency (IEA) describes the state of energy performance in buildings and highlights how an energy efficient, low-carbon pathway can save more than 50 exajoules of energy annually around the world. That savings is equivalent to the current combined building energy use of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and United States.

Building Energy Performance Metrics, co-written with the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC), finds that the 17 economies in the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) alone could account for about three-quarters of the identified energy savings potential between 2015 and 2050.

But the energy savings are not the only benefit a low-carbon pathway would provide, the new study finds. Realising the energy savings potential in buildings would deliver a range of benefits including lower electricity and fuel costs for businesses and households; greater reliability in meeting energy demand without costly disruptions; and reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants that pose a threat to human health.

The report builds on technologies and other energy efficiency actions detailed in past IEA publications, especially Transition to Sustainable Buildings and Technology Roadmap: Energy efficient building envelopes, that describe steps to realise the IEA 2 Degrees Scenario to limit climate change.

Over the recent period of 2000 to 2012, building energy use rose in all of the major economies evaluated, with the exception of the United Kingdom and Germany. Electricity use – a major component of overall energy consumption in buildings – grew in all of the major economies as use of electronics and other appliances rose, plus some countries expanded grid connectivity. Increases in major historic drivers of energy use in buildings, including population, economic activity, building floor area and the number of households, can explain the growth in energy use in part. But the new report explains that smart energy efficiency policies can decouple that growth. 

The IEA and IPEEC’s Building Energy Efficiency Taskgroup (BEET) prepared the report at the request of the MEF, a high-level international forum dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To download Building Energy Performance Metrics, please click here.