Here is the third and final collection of tidbits, factoids, and insights from the Energy Efficiency Global Forum. These are drawn from the final plenary session, which was two hours long and absolutely packed with interesting speakers and info.

•  Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency, pointed out that efficiency improvements have slowed markedly. Between 1973-1990 energy use rose 0.5% while efficiency rose 2%; between 1990-2005, use rose 0.9% while efficiency rose just 0.8%. Time to get going again!

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•  Tanaka: by a wide margin, the biggest chunk of projected increases in CO2 emissions come from non-OECD countries’ use of coal. Either we solve the China/India coal problem or we don’t solve the climate problem.

•  Tanaka: the IEA has constructed a scenario whereby the world can reduce emissions enough to hit the 450 ppm target. In it, energy efficiency is responsible for 54% of the total emission reductions — the largest source, by a wide margin. (By way of contrast, renewables are responsible for 23%.)

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•  Jean-Pierre Benqué, senior VP of enormous (and heavily nuke-based) utility EDF, laid out his three part strategy to reduce emissions:

  • Reduce the carbon content of electricity generation, by substantially ramping up renewables and nuclear. (“Nuclear is not the solution, but there is no solution without nuclear,” says he.)
  • Disperse renewables, primarily PV on rooftops. (Very interesting/promising that distributed generation is a full third of his plan.)
  • Increase the efficiency of transportation with hybrid and electric vehicles.

•  Benqué, pointedly: we need a global price on carbon, but even if we get one, it will be many years before it’s high enough to really drive large-scale efficiency. We need strong regulations and incentives now.

•  Jaana Remes, a senior fellow at the McKinsey Global Institute (and a hero to all mankind!), said that we need to increase carbon productivity — the amount of GDP we get per ton of CO2 emitted — tenfold if we want to meet the world’s shared target of holding temperatures under 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels while also growing the world’s economies.

•  Remes: there is precedent for this kind of productivity growth — labor productivity increased tenfold during the Industrial Revolution. Thing is, that took 100 years and we have to do it in 20 40.

•  Remes’ to-do list:

  • efficiency regulations;
  • long-term, stable carbon pricing system for power and industry;
  • targeted systems for agriculture and deforestation linked to international development; and
  • mechanism to drive more expensive technologies down learning curve, moving them from the right to the left of the McKinsey cost curve.

•  Remes’ crucial, crucial point: the more we wait, the more the low-cost options disappear (a building, once built, lasts at least 30 years) and the more expensive the overall enterprise becomes. To minimize costs it’s crucial to begin now and act quickly. (So suck it, Lomborg.) (She didn’t say suck it Lomborg. That was me.)

•  Dr. Douglas Howe of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) noted Europe’s 20-20-20 program (20% more power, 20% more efficiency, 20% reductions in CO2 by 2020) and said CERA had been commissioned to do a comprehensive, bottom-up study of the efficiency target (which is, for now, still nonbinding). They were tasked with finding out if it’s possible. The result? No. It’s not. But EU can do it by 2030.

•  Howe: on electricity, efficiency can go up 8% by 2020, 20% by 2030, basically flattening growth. Residential end-use accounts for 50% of that.

• Howe: Interestingly, the addition of smart meters only adds about another 1% to electric efficiency. They might be great for other reasons, but smart meters can’t be expected to produce big efficiency gains. (Of course, smart meters are supposed to be components in larger systems — I wonder if they modeled grid, appliance/car, and management software improvements as well, to capture system-of-system benefits.)

•  Howe: natural gas is where the really big gains come — 13% by 2020 and 26% by 2030, reversing demand to 1992 levels, mainly thanks to improvements in the humble residential boiler.

•  Howe: What’s the cost? Around $500-$700 billion out to 2030. The benefit? Break even to slightly positive.

•  Howe: This is not a laissez faire kind of thing. It will require strong, early, forceful gov’t action.

•  Björn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), discussed a fantastic new study they just put out: the Energy Efficiency in Buildings Project, or EEBP. It’s a comprehensive, four-year study of the potential for efficiency in the built sector, created with consultation and review from dozens of experts and trade organizations. Just top-notch. I’ll probably do a separate post on it.