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Energy Efficiency

Study finds gross imbalance between energy technology, efficiency funding

Study finds gross imbalance between energy technology, efficiency funding
Energy efficiency is just as effective.

A recent scientific study found that efficient end-use technologies are most likely to prevent carbon emissions and provide higher social returns – and yet, when it comes to funding, they tend to get ignored.

According to the study, creating more energy-efficient cars, buildings and household appliances are as effective low-carbon efforts, if not more so.

The study comes from the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

Currently, innovation efforts dwell on developing energy supply technologies, such as new power stations, instead of improving the manner by which energy is used.

"About two-thirds of all public innovation efforts are directed toward energy supply technologies. It is vital that innovations in renewable energy supply continue, but the imbalance in spending needs to be redressed urgently to mitigate climate change,” said Dr. Charlie Wilson, researcher at the Tyndall Center and head of the study.

“Evidence strongly suggests that energy end-use and efficiency currently stand as the most effective ways to mitigate climate change,” he added.

To assess energy technology innovations, three desirable outcomes were taken into consideration by the researchers – the potential for greenhouse gas emission reductions; broader social, environmental and energy security benefits; and the potential for technological improvements.

From these outcomes, the researchers were able to quantify the relative emphasis placed on energy supply technologies versus the end use of energy. They found that efficiency in energy end use technologies outperforms supply technologies in all three areas.

Currently, energy supply technologies occupy a bigger share in energy system investments and capacity, while engaging higher levels of private sector activity. They also present a higher potential of cost reductions and deliver higher social returns and higher emissions reduction prospects.

However, the study showed an excessively high concentration of effort invested in innovation in these technologies, “right across the energy research and development sector."

"Efficiency gets short shrift in both public energy research and development, and in private market investments alike,” said Prof. Arnulf Grubler, study co-author from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Yale University.

"In contrast, improvements in technologies like domestic appliances and more energy-efficient transport are underrepresented given their potential for mitigating climate change," he said.

Dr. Wilson argued that “small-scale innovations” that advance end use efficiency are often overlooked, “because they don’t have the glamour of solar panels and wind turbines, and they don’t benefit from the well-established institutions, powerful market interests, and political influence that support supply technologies such as fossil fuels, nuclear, and wind and solar power.”

This study is a collaborative international effort by the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia, Austria’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, United States’ Yale University, Tufts University and University of Wisconsin. – EcoSeed Staff

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