The scale of global investment in energy-efficiency and its contribution to energy demand are as significant as those of other developed supply-side resources, the International Energy Agency has said.
The IEA made the claim as it launched a new report that describes the range of energy-efficiency activities worldwide in market terms.
The inaugural Energy Efficiency Market Report joins the IEA market reports for oil, gas, coal and renewable energy, highlighting the place of energy-efficiency as a major fuel.
The report notes that energy-efficiency markets around the world drew investment of up to US $300bn in 2011, a level on par with global investments in renewable energy or fossil-fuel power generation.
“Energy-efficiency has been called a ‘hidden fuel’, yet it is hiding in plain sight,” IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven said as she presented the report at the World Energy Congress in Korea.
“The degree of global investment in energy-efficiency and the resulting energy savings are so massive that they beg the following question: is energy-efficiency not just a hidden fuel but rather the world’s first fuel?”
The report notes that two key factors have driven the recent growth of the energy-efficiency market: effective policies and the high price of energy. Energy standards, labelling, obligations on suppliers and access to assessments and financing have proved crucial.
High oil prices in particular have encouraged savings. IEA claims, however, that the absence of dynamic pricing in energy markets, together with subsidies, high transaction costs, information failures and a lack of institutional capacity, can sometimes impede efficiency improvements.
The report focuses in on a specific technology sector in which there is significant energy-efficiency market activity: appliances and information communication technology (ICT) equipment.
Here, while traditional appliance markets seem static, energy-efficient products and ICT equipment are growth areas for energy efficiency, the report says.