The accelerated path to energy efficiency

The accelerated path to energy efficiency

Doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency: UNEP’s contribution

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Energy efficiency—getting more from energy resources through improved technologies and practices—contributes to more profitable business operations, cheaper and more plentiful energy for households, growing economies for countries, a cleaner environment and healthier people.  This is true across the globe: in least developed countries, where the savings from energy efficiency could help make modern energy services available to those who lack access to affordable energy services —as well as in more industrialized countries, where investments in energy productivity can  create new jobs, foster economic growth, and reduce energy costs for families and businesses.

Energy efficiency can accelerate economic development, mitigate climate change, reduce environmental pollution and alleviate extreme poverty; all priorities on the world’s sustainable development agenda.  Energy efficiency is no new discovery. However, the potential of energy efficiency is too often misunderstood.

Put in simple figures, targeted energy efficiency measures have the potential to generate US$250-US$325 billion worth of savings on a yearly basis and reduce global energy-related emissions by 1.5Gt in 2020. The great potential of financial savings generated by energy efficiency measures offer opportunities for both innovative products and improved production processes. The Global Action Agenda, developed under the umbrella of the SE4All, highlights as part of 11 key action areas, the need for concerted action in the three principal sectors of energy consumption – industry and agriculture (30%), transport (30%), and buildings (35%). As the International Energy Agency projects that each of these sectors will account for a similar share of total primary energy demand in 2030, investment in these sectors will provide substantial returns. Many practices require low investment and can be achieved rapidly. Others, however, are not happening overnight.  For example, improvement in appliances or industrial equipment is to some extent conditioned by the rate of retirement of obsolete items. Behavioural change arises out of multiple forms of education and learning and operates over a medium to long-term perspective. Delivering energy efficiency on the scale envisaged by SE4All will also require very large investments by the private sector. Targets, policies and measures are critical to create the right framework conditions to stimulate innovation and trigger investment and consumer choices. These need to be put into place now to ensure that we reach the 2030 objective.


UNEP has developed a wide portfolio of energy efficiency projects, initiatives and activities that cover the financial, technology and policy aspects linked to energy efficiency and focuses on bringing all energy efficiency stakeholders together for concerted action. UNEP specifically focuses on the transport, building, lighting and appliances sectors of energy efficiency with dedicated projects and activities, but also supports sustainable production and consumption, sustainable lifestyles and coalition-building in support of innovative finance. Building on its past activities, UNEP will contribute together with its partners to strengthening the energy efficiency business case in developing countries and emerging economies, enabling them to reap economic, environmental and poverty alleviation benefits.

Two existing UNEP initiatives are praised as key contributors to the SE4ALL objective of doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. The first being the en.lighten initiative, which aims to put in place policies phasing-out all inefficient incandescent lamps by 2016. The second key contribution is the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI), which is working towards doubling the fuel savings of the global car fleet – from a current average of eight liters per 100 kilometers to four liters by 2050.

UNEP’s role also in energy efficiency also deepened with the establishment in 2013 of the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency (C2E2). The Centre tailors its activities under three strategic functions:

  • Global Champion on Energy Efficiency

  • Analytical Support for Energy Efficiency

  • Energy Efficiency Knowledge Platform and Network  


Following a series of consultations, the Energy Efficiency Sub-Committee of the Sustainable Energy For All Initiative (SE4ALL) established a global platform for multi-stake holder action on sectoral ‘accelerators’ that will focus on scaling up and accelerating energy efficiency work at the national, sub-national and municipal levels. The Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform helps reach the SE4ALL objective of doubling the global rate of improvement of energy efficiency. It will do so by driving action and commitments by national and sub-national leaders at the country, city, state, region, or sector level. The individual accelerators will focus on specific energy efficiency sectors. UNEP is currently co-leading three of these accelerators together with private sector partners: lighting and appliances, district energy and transport.

UNEP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) revealed plans to launch a new global product efficiency programme at the recent Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York and GEF Assembly in Cancun, Mexico. Building on the successful en.lighten model and with leadership of the GEF, UNEP and its partners at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Collaborative "Labelling and Standards Programme (CLASP), the International Copper Association (ICA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) launched a new global partnership to mobilize the transition to energy efficient appliances and equipment at two key international events.

Achieving IEA’s Efficient World Scenario has the potential to increase the global economy by $18 trillion over the period 2012 to 2035. Over the medium to longer term, energy efficiency represents the largest contributor to achieving the 2 degree climate goal, providing about 40% of the reductions in energy sector emissions required by 2050.

For example accelerating the use of efficient lighting, air conditioners, refrigerators, electric motors, distribution transformers and information technology could reduce global electricity consumption by more than 10%, save 350 billion US$ on electricity bills and save 1.25 billion tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the emissions from 500 million vehicles, every year.