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Plan B Efficiency and Conservation
Measures Drop Energy Demand by 2020

by Earth Policy Institute
Environmental News Network, January 6, 2009

"Projections from the International Energy Agency (IEA) show global energy demand growing by close to 30 percent by 2020, setting the stage for massive growth in the carbon dioxide emissions that are warming our planet," says Lester R. Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, in a recent release, "Plan B Efficiency and Conservation Measures Drop Energy Demand by 2020." "But dramatically ramping up energy efficiency would allow the world to not only avoid growth in energy demand but actually reduce global demand to below 2006 levels by 2020."

We can reduce the amount of energy we use by preventing the waste of heat and electricity in buildings and industrial processes, by switching to efficient lighting and appliances, and by restructuring the transportation sector. Many of the needed energy efficiency measures can be enacted relatively quickly and pay for themselves.

Buildings are responsible for a large share of global electricity consumption and raw materials use. In the United States, buildings account for 70 percent of electricity use and close to 40 percent of total CO2 emissions. Retrofitting existing buildings with better insulation and more-efficient appliances can cut energy use by 20 to 50 percent.

Lighting also offers great opportunities for improving efficiency. Swapping out conventional light bulbs for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) can cut energy use by 75 percent. If everyone around the world turned to high-efficiency home, office, industrial, and street lighting, total world electricity use would fall by 12 percent, equivalent to the output of 705 coal-fired power plants.

Similar efficiency gains can be realized with household appliances. For instance, Japan’s Top Runner Program takes the most efficient appliances on the market today and uses them to set the efficiency standards for tomorrow. This program has helped Japan boost the efficiency of refrigerators by 55 percent, air conditioners by close to 68 percent, and computers by 99 percent. This program is a model for the rest of the world.

Within the industrial sector, retooling the manufacture of chemicals and petrochemicals, steel, and cement offers major opportunities to curb energy demand. Adopting the most-efficient blast furnaces and boosting recycling can cut energy use in this industry by close to 40 percent. Just shifting to the most efficient dry kiln technologies could cut global energy use in the cement sector by more than 40 percent.

Much of the energy savings in the transport sector come from electrifying rail systems and short-distance road travel, while turning away from petroleum products and toward renewable sources of energy. Mass transit is key. Intercity high-speed rail lines can move people quickly and energy-efficiently, reducing car and air travel.

For personal vehicles, using plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) running primarily on emissions-free electricity generated by the wind and the sun would allow for low-carbon short-distance car trips. While most commuting and errands could be done solely on battery power, a backup fuel tank would allow for longer trips. Combining a shift to PHEVs with widespread wind farm construction to supply electricity would greatly reduce oil consumption and carbon emissions and would allow drivers to recharge batteries with renewable electricity at a cost equivalent of less than $1 per gallon of gasoline.

In stark contrast to the IEA’s projected 30 percent growth in demand, realizing the Plan B efficiency measures alone would lead to a 6 percent decline in global primary energy demand from 2006 levels by 2020. Beyond these productivity gains, because producing power from fossil fuels generates large amounts of wasted energy, shifting from fossil fuels to renewables would further reduce primary energy demand in the Plan B energy economy.

For full report visit

Earth Policy Institute
Plan B Efficiency and Conservation Measures Drop Energy Demand by 2020
Environmental News Network, January 6, 2009

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