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Energy efficiency already in slowdown has been further impacted by the Covid crisis and the next three years are critical for a reversal, says IEA in a new report.

The report, Energy Efficiency 2020, updating energy efficiency trends globally projects investment in energy efficiency to fall 9% in 2020, while the global energy intensity improves by only 0.8%. This is the weakest rate since 2010 and roughly half the rates of the past two years, and is well below the level needed to achieve global climate and sustainability goals, says the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The organisation adds that this, which amounts to a slowing in reduction of the energy use per unit of economic outcome, is especially worrying in the light of its modelling. Energy efficiency is projected to deliver almost half of the reduction in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions over the next 20 years in the scenario targeting full achievement of the international climate and energy goals.

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Changed mobility patterns with travel restrictions and lockdowns resulting in increased energy use per passenger per kilometre travelled, and delays in implementing efficiency measures in buildings are all having an impact.

Likewise, the partial shift in energy demand from the commercial to residential sector is resulting in more energy intensive use in commercial buildings. This could increase further if for example, higher ventilation rates are required to reduce the risk of virus transmission.

However, a bright spot is a likely improvement in appliance efficiency with housebound households showing increased interest in new and in many cases more efficient purchases.

“Together with renewables, energy efficiency is one of the mainstays of global efforts to reach energy and climate goals,” comments IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol.

“For governments that are serious about boosting energy efficiency, the litmus test will be the amount of resources they devote to it in their economic recovery packages, where efficiency measures can help drive economic growth and job creation.”

The report says that stimulus packages being introduced by governments as part of their economic recovery plans will heavily influence future efficiency trends.

So far, stimulus funding for actions to improve energy efficiency have been uneven with the majority of the funding in Europe and focused mainly on either the buildings sector or accelerating the shift to electric vehicles.

This funding is estimated to generate the equivalent of 1.8 million full-time jobs between 2021 and 2023, However, with increased stimulus in line with the IEA’s Sustainable Recovery Plan in buildings, transport and industry, up to 4 million additional jobs could be created globally.