Yamina SahebScientific and Policy Officer, European Commission
"Once relegated to the shadows, energy savings are finally being considered as an energy source in their own right"
Considering energy efficiencyIn economic terms, energy efficiency refers to the efforts made to reduce the energy consumption of a system... as an energy source in its own right can radically alter our vision of the energy mixThe range of energy sources of a region.. Taking this approach, the combined weight of energy savings and renewable energies in Europe could exceed total fossil fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant... consumption by 2030. In this article, Yamina Saheb, an economist specialized in scientific and policy matters at the European Commission, offers her analysis.
CoalCoal is ranked by its degree of transformation or maturity, increasing in carbon content from... was the main source of energy in the 19th century, followed by oil, gas and nuclear powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... in the 20th century and, most probably, energy efficiency and renewable energies in the 21st century.
Once relegated to the shadows, energy savings are finally being considered as an energy source in their own right. The concept was first introduced in a 2008 U.S. paper that demonstrated the increasing potential of energy efficiency technologies in the United States1. More recently, in its 2013 annual report on the world energy efficiency market, the International Energy Agency (IEA)An independent, intergovernmental organization founded within the framework of the OECD... showed that the cumulative energy savings in 11 IEA member countries between 1974 and 2010 exceeded consumption of any other single fuel source2.
Closer to home, the European Commission has released energy mix forecasts based on plans to make efficiency the continent's leading source of energy by 2030. Had energy efficiency not been factored into the mix, fossil fuels would account for 60% of energy needs in Europe.
If the political will existed among our governments and heads of state, energy savings and renewable energies could together outweigh the total amount of fossil fuels that Europe might need in 2030. Achieving this goal, however, would require our elected representatives to adopt 2030 energy efficiency targets of at least 40% before the end of 2016. The current target is 27%.
In its "Energy Union" strategy adopted in February 2015, the European Union confirmed the importance and future role of energy savings in the bloc's energy mix, highlighting the need "to fundamentally rethink energy efficiency and treat it as an energy source in its own right, representing the value of energy saved"3.
The strategy goes one step further by calling on the Commission to "ensure that energy efficiency and demand side response can compete on equal terms with generation capacity", thereby guaranteeing that energy savings have fair access to energy markets.
Let there be no doubt about it, Europe's energy revolution has begun.
Yamina Saheb is an engineer and economist with a Ph.D. in energy engineering. Yamina previously worked as a building expert at the International Energy Agency's Energy Efficiency and Environment Division, where she set up and managed the Sustainable Building Centre. In 2013, she joined the European Commission's Joint Research Centre as a Scientific and Policy Officer in charge of analyzing energy efficiency policies in Europe.
(2) "Energy Efficiency Market Report", IEA, 2013
(3) "Energy Union Package", European Commission, 2015