HomeRegional NewsAfricaEd's note: Why energy efficiency needs your attention

Ed’s note: Why energy efficiency needs your attention

Your home, office building and shopping centres are lethal influencers of climate change. These buildings are responsible for about 40% of global energy consumption and about one-third of global GHG emissions.

Even so, few people are aware of this impact and, as a result, have not considered implementing solutions.  

This ignorance saw emissions from the operation of buildings and construction thereof hit their highest-ever level in 2019. When adding emissions from the building construction industry on top of operational emissions, the sector accounted for an astounding 38% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions.

The 2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction paper, published by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC), reported this impact on climate change. The report also found that while global building energy consumption remained steady year on year, energy-related CO2 emissions increased to 9.95 GtCO2 in 2019.

The increase in emissions was due to a shift away from the direct use of coal, oil and traditional biomass towards electricity, which had a higher carbon content due to the high proportion of fossil fuels used in generation.

Given this, the best course for action is implementing energy efficiency solutions, which can ensure these buildings contribute significantly to the goals of the Paris Agreement.

However, the concern is that to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050, all actors across the buildings value chain need to increase decarbonisation actions and their impact by a factor of five.

According to GlobalABC’s new Buildings Climate Tracker, this concern considers incremental energy efficiency investment in buildings and the share of renewable energy in global buildings. The tracker found that the rate of annual improvement is decreasing – halving between 2016 and 2019.

Adding its voice to the importance of energy efficiency, the IEA’s latest global assessment of the EE market and policy trends highlights the urgent need for more robust implementation of clean energy policies. The review places energy efficiency at its core to reach international climate goals.

This assessment is the first update of the IEA’s energy efficiency market report since the announcement of new spending commitments aimed at supporting the economic recovery by governments throughout 2021.

IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol said the Agency considers energy efficiency the “first fuel” as it still represents the cleanest and, in most cases, the cheapest way to meet our energy needs. “There is no plausible pathway to net zero emissions without using our energy resources much more efficiently. A step-change in energy efficiency will give us a fighting chance of staving off the worst effects of climate change while creating millions of decent jobs and driving down energy bills.”

Read more on this topic:
Energy efficiency improvements are too slow to reach net zero

The IEA report notes that governments have scaled up existing employment-intensive efficiency programmes, highlighting that substantial potential for job creation remains untapped.

For example, investments in the energy efficiency of buildings – a well-established driver of construction jobs – are expected to rise by 20% in 2021 compared with pre-pandemic levels. Even with this record level of spending, the report details how four million more jobs could be added by 2030 by further increasing spending on efficient buildings, appliances and other measures in line with the IEA’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario.

Even though progress in efficiency efforts has not kept up with an increase in sectoral growth, the report finds positive signs and opportunities to catch up on climate action.

There is much to be gained from implementing energy efficiency techniques and solutions. However, the impact of EE will show remarkable results where everyone buys into making an effort.

These are the measures we can all implement, from simple implementation such as switching off lights, using labelling to indicate an appliance’s energy efficiency level to regulations around the use of HVAC in buildings.

Until next week. 
Editor, ESI Africa  

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.