International Program Efforts related to Energy Efficiency

The concept of energy efficiency offers multi-facetted benefits for a sustainable and low carbon development worldwide. To date, most energy efficiency initiatives are local, national or bi-lateral between countries at best. Multi-lateral or truly international activities have been increasing in number, for example in the EU and or regions where agreements between multiple governments have been reached. International projects are often financed by donor organizations like the Worldbank and its affiliates with implementation by UN agencies. Most initiatives, however, still focus on specific countries.

A dilemma of international energy efficiency initiatives is the required trade-off between the smallest common denominator acceptable for participating countries and the specificity of goals and targets to be effective. Considerable differences in national government practice, legislation and regulations, sometimes combined with a lack of “willingness to cooperate”, make the value proposition of international activities less attractive. An initiative that works well in one country might not work in another country at all – an adaptation or dilution in scope and outcome is often required.

Although policies and regulations are preferred ways to implement energy efficiency, the approach is more complicated when multiple countries are involved due to legislative differences. Voluntary agreements are useful to “bring people on board” but typically lack compliance enforcement and audits, a very common deficit in most initiatives.

There are at least three requirements for an international energy efficiency initiative to be successful:

  1. local support and “buy-in”
  2. access to financing
  3. effective coordination of all parties involved.

Willingness to make policy changes and adopt regulations locally and “local champions” are extremely beneficial.

The focus of international energy efficiency activities is in line with existing national or local programs: buildings, appliances, electrical equipment (motors, HVAC etc.), utilities/ grids and to a lesser degree transportation. The industrial sector often lacks the will to cooperate due to a competitive situation of companies in many sectors (e.g. steel industry).  International initiatives should focus more strongly on smaller businesses and commercial areas, transportation (non-fossil based), specific industry sectors such as textiles and IT/ technology (e.g. data centers). Innovation and R&D support as well as monitoring of results are key components that need to be considered more strongly when implementing energy efficiency measures.

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Highlights

  • Discusses multi-lateral or international activities in the EU and regions where agreements between multiple governments have been reached.
  • Presents requirements for success of an international energy efficiency initiative.
  • Suggests that a stronger focus should be on smaller businesses, transportation, specific industry sectors, and IT.
  • Innovation and R&D support also need to be considered more strongly when implementing energy efficiency measures.
  • Explains that willingness to make policy changes and adopt regulations locally are extremely beneficial.

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