Reducing the World’s Energy Intensity with Efficiency

Bridging the energy divide

The World Bank, September 9, 2015. Image credit: geralt

A major factor in this momentum is Sustainable Energy for All, an initiative set up after Rio+20, the UN’s 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. The SE4All initiative has high-level leadership and strong political support. Co-led and chaired by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, it has quickly brought together the public sector, private sector and civil society around three ambitious goals: ensuring universal access to modern-energy services; doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global-energy mix.

These goals now form the basis of the Energy SDG. They also define the World Bank’s Energy Global Practice, which I lead. More than 80 countries now align their efforts with the goals, with political support driven by Ministers of Energy all the way up to Heads of State. National and local civil-society groups have become essential players — urging their countries’ leaders to align energy policies with the goals. And to gauge progress toward these goals, the World Bank and its partners produce a “Global Tracking Framework” (GTF) report every two years.

The second GTF report — released this past May — made the challenges and opportunities abundantly clear. On the positive side, between 2010 and 2012, the global-electrification rate increased from 83 to 85 percent, and 220 million people got energy access for the first time. Among other promising trends, modern renewables (hydro, wind, solar, geothermal) grew from 8.4 percent in 2010 to 8.8 percent in 2012 of total global-energy consumption, while global-energy intensity fell more than 1.7 percent a year over the two years of tracking.

We need to dramatically accelerate these gains. For renewables, despite enormous strides driven largely by lower technology costs, we need to see annual growth of 7.5 percent a year, up from 4 percent in 2012. We need to improve efficiency and lower the world’s energy intensity by at least 2.6 percent a year. And regions with the greatest energy deficits — Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia — need our help to improve energy access.

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