Efficiency is Increasingly at the Center of Global Energy Transformations – But It Needs More Action Now. And Fast!
By Christian Zinglersen, Head of Secretariat, Clean Energy Ministerial
In early June, I had the pleasure of attending the EE Global 2019 conference in Washington, D.C., a key energy efficiency event for dialogue amongst governments, businesses, thought leaders, and others. The overall message from the event was clear – we need to double down on our energy efficiency efforts globally and connect and reap synergies from the many disruptions and innovations taking place across the energy sector.
This was an opportune time to take part in the discussion. We had just returned from our Tenth Ministerial meeting (CEM10) in Vancouver, hosted by the Canadian government, where it was very clear that energy efficiency efforts are at the center of global clean energy transformations. As such, efficiency was the focus of several ministerial discussions, private-public roundtables, and other working-level events in Vancouver.
We like to think of our Clean Energy Ministerial (or CEM for short, comprising of 26 members, including most of the G20) as a very special platform. It combines a yearly ministerial-level meeting devoted to clean energy with year-round technical work targeting many different aspects of a cleaner energy system, whether on the policy or technology side or whether on the so-called supply or demand side (a distinction increasingly called into question by the more integrated energy systems of tomorrow).
To date, the CEM has mostly focused on energy efficiency in a traditional sense. With the number of domestic appliances showing no signs of decline, one of the key initiatives in the CEM focuses on promotion of the most efficient appliances, equipment, and lighting through improved standard setting and labeling programs.
CEM has also looked at energy management, and implementation of standards such as ISO50001, as a robust part of our portfolio, benefiting from leadership provided by a diverse group of member countries over the years. Gradual change is taking place in this space, too. Countries are increasingly looking at energy efficiency as an asset to address the fast-evolving, more dynamic energy systems of the future. With rapid strides in digitalization and increasing possibilities provided by more demand responsive assets, several countries are seeking to integrate energy efficiency strategies into broader energy system policy.
In addition, the CEM is also turning its focus toward sectors which historically are the hardest to decarbonize. For similar reasons, I reckon, this was one of the key themes at the EE Global this year, too – i.e. how to decarbonize energy-intensive industries, which represent 40% of carbon emissions today, be it steel, cement, plastics, heavy duty transport, etc. No single bullet exists, of course, to tackle this, but several low-carbon solutions exist, one of which is targeted efficiency efforts in a very wide sense.
The EE Global event called for doubling down of efforts in energy efficiency, mirroring priorities from many CEM members. A systems-approach will increasingly be key to achieve such aims. And while this may make government and industry efforts more challenging, the opportunities are greater, too. Exciting times indeed for those addressing clean energy challenges!