Britain Tops New Energy Efficiency Scorecard, U.S. Way Behind

WASHINGTON, DC, July 16, 2012 (ENS) – The United Kingdom ranks highest on a new energy efficiency scorecard of the world’s 12 major economies, followed by Germany, Italy, and Japan. The first International Energy Efficiency Scorecard was published today by the Washington-based nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, ACEEE.

In the last decade the United States has made “limited or little progress toward greater efficiency at the national level,” putting it in ninth place, the report finds. The United States scored high in building efficiency, but was at the bottom of the list in transportation.

The Miliken coal-fired power plant on Cayuga Lake in Lansing, New York came online in 1955. (Photo by Elaina McCartney courtesy of New Energy Choices)

“While energy efficiency has played a major role in the economies of developed nations for decades, cost-effective energy efficiency remains a massively underutilized energy resource,” said report author and ACEEE researcher Sara Hayes. “Fortunately, there is a lot countries can do to strengthen their economic competitiveness through improvements in energy efficiency.”

To spur the United States towards greater energy efficiency, the ACEEE recommends that Congress establish a national energy savings target “to complement existing state policies and raise the bar for all states.” Most countries analyzed in the Scorecard have such targets.

The report also recommends that U.S. manufacturers commit to continual improvement in energy efficiency by using Superior Energy Performance ISO 50001 (ISO 2011) and other voluntary platforms.

States and the federal government should implement improved financial incentives, such as tax credits, loans, and loan-loss reserves, to encourage private investment in energy efficiency, the ACEEE says.

The phase out of old, inefficient power plants, the modernization of the electric grid infrastructure to reduce line losses, adoption of advanced “smart grid” techniques, and use of combined heat and power all would help make the United States more energy efficient, advises the ACEEE.

For energy efficient transportation, the ACEEE would like to see more government funding for public transit and the adoption of “pay-as-you-drive” insurance, so the cost is determined by the number of miles traveled.

The federal government should adopt the proposed increases in Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, for an average fuel economy of 49.6 miles per gallon in 2025 for cars, as well as higher standards for heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency for 2025.

Biogas powers this fuel cell that runs the Munich data center, Germany (Photo courtesy CFC Solutions GmbH)

ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel said, “The UK and the leading economies of Europe are now well ahead of the United States when it comes to energy efficiency. This is significant because countries that use energy more efficiently require fewer resources to achieve the same goals, thus reducing costs, preserving valuable natural resources, and creating jobs.”

“Unfortunately,” said Nadel, “our results show that nowhere is the vast potential for improvements in energy efficiency being completely realized.”

The Scorecard includes 12 of the world’s largest economies: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.

These 12 economies represent over 78 percent of global gross domestic product; 63 percent of global energy consumption; and 62 percent of the global carbon-dioxide equivalent emissions.

On a scale of 100 possible points in 27 categories, ACEEE ranked the nations: (1) the United Kingdom; (2) Germany; (3) Italy; (4) Japan; (5) France; (6) the European Union, Australia, and China (in a three-way tie); (9) the United StS.; (10) Brazil; (11) Canada; and (12) Russia.

ACEEE divided the 27 categories across four groupings: those that track cross-cutting aspects of energy use at the national level, and the three sectors most responsible for energy consumption in an economically developed country – buildings, industry, and transportation.

Portcullis House, in London opposite Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, contains MPs’ offices and modern meeting and Select Committee rooms. The chimneys are part of an energy efficient, ventilation system. The external walls are blast-proof. (Photo courtesy UK Parliament)

Germany scored highest for “national efforts,” China for buildings, the United Kingdom for the energy efficiency of its industry, and a there was a tie among Italy, China, Germany, and the United Kingdom for energy efficient transportation.

Edward Davey, British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said, “Energy efficiency sits at the heart of our policies to encourage low-carbon growth, and I am particularly pleased that the UK is ranked first of the 12 economies considered by the study.”

“Making our buildings and industries more energy efficient is a significant challenge, one that will take years to meet; doing so cost effectively will mean drawing on the experiences of others,” said Davey. “This study is a fascinating collection of best practice, setting out the innovations which can accelerate economic growth, enhance energy security – and save our households and businesses money.”

The ACEEE ranking system looks at both “policy metrics” and “performance metrics” to measure a country’s overall energy efficiency.

Policy metrics include such things as the presence of a national energy savings target, fuel economy standards for vehicles, and energy efficiency standards for appliances.

Performance metrics measure energy use and provide quantifiable results such as the amount of energy consumed by a country relative to its gross domestic product, average miles per gallon of on-road passenger vehicles, and energy consumed per square foot of floor space in residential buildings.

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