IEA: Copenhagen Summit Must Spur Energy Efficiency

By Keith Johnson of the Wall Street Journal on December 14, 2009

“It is more important than ever that participants [in Copenhagen] send a strong, indicative and ambitious signal that can guide energy investment and policy decisions globally,” said Nobuo Tanaka, the head of the IEA.

What’s interesting about the IEA’s plea is that the “ambitious signal” doesn’t seem to refer to clean or renewable energy as much as it does to energy efficiency.

The IEA reiterated today in its presentation that energy efficiency can do more than all other energy technologies combined to help the world curb emissions of greenhouse gases over the next two decades; without that, the world will fall short of what it needs to do.

To wit: The IEA says that efficiency could save 7.1 gigatonnes of carbon emissions by 2030. The entire cocktail of more wind farms, solar plantations, nuclear power, clean coal, and natural gas would save about 6.6 gigatonnes.

That’s pretty much what the IEA said last month in its World Energy Outlook, when it flat out said that the current global energy mix was “unsustainable.” It’s also the thinking underlying the Obama administration’s plan to fast-track “cash for caulkers.”

Here’s the thing that makes the IEA’s repeated calls really interesting for a cash-strapped world: Saving energy saves money. Most, if not all, of the other energy recipes—from wind farms to a nuclear renaissance—carry a big and uncertain price tag.

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