Energy efficiency: policies need reform, but the UK still outperforms other countries

  • 17 Jul 2012, 15:00
  • Ros Donald

A new report has warned the UK's energy efficiency policies won't deliver on their full potential unless they're reformed. But one energy expert has questioned the figures used in the report,  saying they don't accurately reflect the UK's energy use or potential savings.

Meanwhile, green groups and consumer organisations have told the government its home efficiency loan scheme looks set to fail unless it's reformed. And on the same day, a new study shows that on the international stage, the UK may be the best of a bad bunch.

Prepare yourself for fun, as we round up the day's energy efficiency news.

Current energy efficiency policies unlikely to deliver potential savings

According to BusinessGreen, energy minister Charles Hendry has announced the government is going to consult on new energy efficiency plans this autumn.

It looks like there will be a lot to think about. UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change yesterday published a draft report by energy consultancy McKinsey. It suggests current policies are set to deliver just one-third of possible energy savings available over the next two decades from efficiency. The report has identified 150 terawatt hours of energy savings the UK could make by 2030 - most of which could come from improved lighting controls in the commercial sector, better building efficiency and pump efficiency in the industrial sector.

But unless the government improves its current efficiency policies, the report concludes, the UK may only achieve around a third of the potential savings identified. On the upside, McKinsey says policies aimed at housing could deliver up to 76 per cent of potential savings. This means it's really important the  Green Deal, the government's energy efficiency loan scheme, works.

Does the report get domestic energy savings right?

But is the analysis right? Over on his blog Carbon Commentary, Chris Goodall suggests the DECC report makes "important errors" in calculating estimated savings that could be made in homes.

He says the report overstates the amount of power used in domestic lighting "by almost a factor of three". This would mean the projected efficiency savings aren't possible, as they are almost double previous estimates of total UK power use for home lighting. In contrast, Goodall calculates that the report has underestimated the amount of power we use for space and water heating.

DECC says it's publishing the underlying analysis for comment and is keen to receive views on where the report conflicts with other sources of evidence. It adds, however:

"It's important to note that the figures shown look at the maximum potential for electricity efficiency[...]. We would not necessarily expect all this potential to be cost effective or practical to deliver."

Consumer and green groups warn the Green Deal could "fail"

Which?, WWF and Greenpeace have written to Ed Davey to say the Green Deal will fail unless reformed - a bit of a problem if the McKinsey report is correct about the policy's importance in improving UK energy efficiency. The authors say the Green Deal could fail those in fuel poverty, and they claim the policy's focus on solid wall insulation could damage demand for cheaper measures like loft insulation.

Britain races to victory!

It's not all bad - the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has announced the UK tops its 2012 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard. In news that might offer succour to DECC's beleaguered officials, the UK has beaten 11 other countries including Germany, Italy and Japan to the top spot.  

The UK's ambassador to the United States, Sir Peter Westmacott, has blogged on the ACEEE's findings on HuffPo. Apparently we're also hosting the 'world's first sustainable olympics and paralympics'. Who knew?

The report assesses energy efficiency across four groupings: first at the national level, and then across the most energy intensive sectors - buildings, industry and transportation. China has done best at reducing buildings' energy consumption, while the UK scores pretty low when it comes to energy use in homes  - again underlining the importance of the Green Deal in improving the UK's performance.

None of the countries receive a perfect score in any category, however. The council warns its results show how far even the top performers have to go to improve energy savings.

Slow news day

Although there's been a fair bit of news on energy efficiency today, it's barely had a mention outside the articles we've highlighted and trade publications. Sadly, there's only so much loft-insulation themed photo ops can do - energy efficiency is probably essential to cutting emissions, but apparently, as far as the media are concerned, it remains stubbornly uninteresting.

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