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Energy Efficiency Simply Makes Sense

What simple tool offers the entire world an extended energy supply, increased energy security, lower carbon emissions, cleaner air and extra time to mitigate climate change? Energy efficiency. What’s more, higher efficiency can avoid infrastructure investment, cut energy bills, improve health, increase competitiveness and enhance consumer welfare — all while more than paying for itself.

Maria van der Hoeven - IEA

The challenge is getting governments, industry and citizens to take the first steps towards making these savings in energy and money.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has long spearheaded a global move toward improved energy efficiency policy and technology in buildings, appliances, transport and industry, as well as end-use applications such as lighting. That’s because the core of our mandate is energy security — the uninterrupted availability of energy at an affordable price. Greater efficiency is a principal way to strengthen that security: it reduces reliance on energy supply, especially imports, for economic growth; mitigates threats to energy security from climate change; and lessens the global economy’s exposure to disruptions in fossil fuel supply.

In short, energy efficiency makes sense.

In 2006, the IEA presented to the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations its 25 energy efficiency recommendations, which identify best practice and policy approaches to realize the full potential of energy efficiency for our member countries. Every two years, the Agency reports on the gains made by member countries, and today we are working with a growing number of international organizations, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank and the German sustainable development cooperation services provider GIZ.

The opportunities of this “invisible fuel” are many and rich. More than half of the potential savings in industry and a whopping 80 percent of opportunities in the buildings sector worldwide remain untouched. The 25 recommendations, if adopted fully by all 28 IEA members, would save $1 trillion in annual energy costs as well as deliver incalculable security benefits in terms of energy supply and environmental protection.

Achieving even a small fraction of those gains does not require new technological breakthroughs or ruinous capital outlays: the know-how exists, and the investments generate positive returns in fuel savings and increased economic growth. What is required is foresight, patience, changed habits and the removal of the barriers to implementation of measures that are economically viable. For instance, as the World Energy Outlook 2012 demonstrates, investing less than $12 trillion in more energy-efficient technologies would not only quickly pay for itself through reduced energy costs, it would also increase cumulative economic output to 2035 by $18 trillion worldwide.

While current efforts come nowhere close to realizing the full benefits that efficiency offers, some countries are taking big steps forward. Members of the European Union have pledged to cut energy demand by 20 percent by 2020, while Japan plans to trim its electricity consumption 10 percent by 2030. China is committed to reducing the amount of energy needed for each unit of gross domestic product by 16 percent in the next two years. The United States has leaped to the forefront in transportation efficiency standards with new fuel economy rules that could more than double vehicle fuel consumption.

Such transitions entail challenges for policy, and experience shows that government and the private sector must work together to achieve the sustainability goals that societies demand, learning what works and what does not, and following the right path to optimal deployment of technology. Looking forward, energy efficiency will play a vital role in the transition to the secure and sustainable energy future that we all seek. The most secure energy is the barrel or megawatt we never have to use.

Maria van der Hoeven is the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, an autonomous organization which works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member countries and beyond. This commentary appeared first this month in IEA Energy, the Agency’s journal.

 

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Island Nations Build Ocean Thermal Power to Reduce Dependency on Fossil Fuels

Seawater is proving to be one way to combat climate change by reducing fossil fuel dependency for some ocean island nations. Taking a page from land-based geothermal power which uses the coolness below ground in heat exchange systems, islands are using the thermal energy gradient in a column of seawater to generate electricity.

The technology is known as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion or OTEC. A French defense contractor, DCNS Group, is the latest to deploy it in the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. It plans a second project in Martinique which is expected to come online in 2015.

Lockheed Martin, the American defense contractor, has been working with OTEC for over a decade. When I previously wrote about this technology I described apilot project Lockheed was building in Southern China. The company currently plans to have an OTEC power plant operating offshore in Hawaii.

Why offshore? Because OTEC projects need to be on or near the water. The Lockheed and DCNS technology above the water looks very much like a marine production oil platform (see picture below).

Because the ocean is a great energy storage medium, in fact, the largest on the planet, we can take advantage of the temperature gradient that occurs in a column of water and use it to our advantage. Surface water can be as warm as 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) off islands like Reunion and Martinique. At depths of 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), however, that water remains a constant 4-5 degrees Celsius (39-41 Fahrenheit). Go deeper and you approach freezing temperatures or below freezing. The difference in temperature between surface and deep water is what makes OTEC work.

OTEC technology is built using a membrane that serves as a heat exchanger. The warm surface water is exposed to a liquid with a low boiling point. DCNS uses ammonia. When it gasifies the ammonia drives a turbine which is attached to a gemerator. The second part of the OTEC technology involves drawing the cold from below to act as a coolant. This condenses the ammonia back to a liquid state where the process can then be repeated.

Key to OTEC's successful deployment is the finding of island and coastal locations that currently experience high energy costs because fossil fuels need to be imported for energy generation. The second key is locations where there is a sufficiently high temperature gradient in nearby ocean and seas. Japan, China, the Bahamas, Curacao, South Korea and Hawaii are current locations where OTEC is under development or being considered. For countries looking to lower their carbon footprint with all the right keys in place, OTEC may prove to be a strong renewable energy play. More

 

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Seychelles Grid Connected Rooftop Photovoltaic Systems

The Seychelles, like many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is almost 100% reliant on imported oil for energy needs, which is a significant economic and budgetary cost, and is the single largest contributor of greenhouse gases in the country (based on emissions during the shipping process and in the burning of fuel to produce electricity).

Given that Seychelles is a tropical country receiving large amounts of sunshine, with an average 6.9 hours of sunshine per day, there is great potential to replace at least some of the current oil-generated (and polluting) electricity with solar energy systems. One opportunity with high economic, financial and environmental viability is the implementation of rooftop grid-connected PV systems. Current barriers to a more widespread utilization of PV systems in the Seychelles include market barriers, institutional and regulartory barriers, and technical barriers.

The objective of the project is to increase the use of PV systems as a sustainable means of generating electricity, thereby significantly reducing reliance on fossil fuel, through pilot projects for rooftop PV systems on all of the main and selected smaller islands, of the Seychelles. The identified barriers to the deployment, diffusion and transfer of solar PV systems will be addressed through the following project components: a) establishing a strategic policy and legal framework, b) strengthening technology support and delivery systems, and c) creating pilot PV projects.

More: FTP PDF document

Access the Project Documents through the Global Environment Facility Site

 

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International Year of SIDS Launched

 

The International Year of SIDS was launched this morning by PM of Samoa, President of General Assembly, UN Secretary General, President of Nauru and USG of UNSIDS Conference. The event was emceed by Ambassador Jumeau of Seychelles. A great start to build momentum towards UNSIDS Conference in August 2014 focused on genuine and durable partnerships.

 

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