In many developed countries, domestic energy use is falling. In the UK, household consumption rose by 32 per cent between 1970 and 2004 but has since declined from that peak – falling by 19 per cent in 2017. So what is causing this decline? Numerous studies show that consumers are making more environmentally conscious purchase decisions. Yet the drive for greater energy efficiency at home is not just result of this trend. Nor is it led by manufacturers seeking to improve energy efficiency of their own volition. “It is very largely due to European regulation,” says Brenda Boardman, an emeritus fellow at Oxford university’s Environmental Change Institute. A wave of regulation has meant that household appliances – from fridges to lightbulbs – have become significantly more efficient, contributing to a reduction in energy consumption. The EU first introduced compulsory labelling for household appliances, rating them on a scale of A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) in 1995. This was followed by the Ecodesign directive in 2009, which sets out minimum performance standards, removing the least efficient appliances from the market. When the EU announced these plans, household appliance manufacturers were resistant, says Sian Lewis, of the Association of Manufacturers of Do mestic Appliances. “But now they are ever so enthusiastic,” she says. Energy efficiency, therefore, has become a selling point, says. “The industry, having not wanted the labels in the first place, really dedicated a lot of time and energy and resources into investing in saving energy.” As well as appliances becoming more efficient, the way in which homes are insulated plays a part in their energy consumption. Many older European houses – particularly in the UK – have poor insulation. As newer, more energy-efficient homes are built, this should lower consumption. “The debate is shifting towards regulation and buildings – it hasn’t got there yet, but it is getting there,” says Ms Boardman.
FT 25th Sept 2018 read more »
Most economic theorists assume that energy efficiency—the biggest global provider of energy services—is a limited and dwindling resource whose price- and policy-driven adoption will inevitably deplete its potential and raise its cost. Yet, argues Amory Lovins, empirically, modern energy efficiency is, and shows every sign of durably remaining, an expanding-quantity, declining-cost resource. Its adoption is constrained by major but correctable market failures and increasingly motivated by positive externalities. Most importantly, in both newbuild and retrofit applications, its quantity is severalfold larger and its cost lower than most in the energy and climate communities realize. This analytic gap makes climate-change mitigation look harder and costlier than it really is, diverting attention and investment to inferior options.
Physics World 24th Sept 2018 read more »