TODAY’S STUDY: THE WORLD’S MOST AND LEAST ENERGY EFFICIENT NATIONS
The 2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard
Rachel Young, Sara Hayes, Meegan Kelly, Shruti Vaidyanathan, Sameer Kwatra, Rachel Cluett, Garrett Herndon, July 2014 (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy)
A country that uses less energy to achieve the same or better results reduces its costs and pollution, creating a stronger, more competitive economy. While energy efficiency has played a role in the economies of developed nations for decades, cost-effective energy efficiency remains a massively underutilized energy resource.
In this second edition of the International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, we analyze the world’s 16 largest economies covering more than 81% of global gross domestic product and about 71% of global electricity consumption. We looked at 31 metrics divided roughly in half between policies and quantifiable performance to evaluate how efficiently these economies use energy. The policy metrics were scored based on the presence in a country or region of a best-practice policy. Examples of policy metrics include the presence of a national energy savings target, fuel economy standards for vehicles, and energy efficiency standards for appliances. The performance metrics are a measure of energy use and provide quantifiable results. Examples of performance metrics include average miles per gallon of on-road passenger vehicles and energy consumed per square foot of floor space in residential buildings. The metrics are distributed across the three primary sectors responsible for energy consumption in an economically developed country: buildings, industry, and transportation. We have also included a number of metrics that cut across these sectors (such as the efficiency of electricity generation) and that indicate a national commitment to energy efficiency. These metrics are included in a national efforts section. The maximum possible score for a country is 100 points, and we allocated 25 points to each of these four sections, assigning a point value to each metric. We then scored and ranked all economies based on the results of our research.
Germany has the highest overall score, with 65 out of 100 possible points. The top-scoring countries in each category are: China in buildings, Germany in industry, Italy in transportation, and a three-way tie between France, Italy, and the European Union in national efforts.
Our results indicate that some countries are significantly outperforming others, but the more important finding is that there are substantial opportunities for improvement in all economies analyzed. The conditions required for a perfect score are currently achievable and in practice somewhere on the globe. For every metric, at least one country (and often several) received full points. However, every country also has serious weaknesses, and the average score was just 50 points. Understanding exactly why countries scored and ranked where they did requires a detailed look at the metrics; however, generally, the top-scoring countries scored solidly across all four sections.
The United States has made some progress toward greater energy efficiency in recent years, particularly in areas such as building codes, appliance standards, voluntary partnerships between government and industry, and, recently, fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles and heavy-duty trucks. However, the overall story is disappointing. The United States, long considered an innovative and competitive world leader, has progressed slowly and has made limited progress since the last International Scorecard in 2012. In contrast, countries including Germany, Japan, and China are surging ahead. Countries that use energy more efficiently use fewer resources to achieve the same goals, thus reducing costs, preserving valuable natural resources, and gaining a competitive edge over other countries. In the United States, a great deal of resources are wasted, and costs have been allowed to remain unnecessarily high.
The inefficiency in the U.S. economy means a tremendous waste of energy resources and money. Across most metrics analyzed in this International Scorecard, in the past decade the United States has made limited progress toward greater efficiency at the national level. The overall U.S. score of 42 is less than half of the possible points and is 23 points away from the top spot. Further, the United States falls behind Canada, Australia, India and South Korea. These scores suggest that this list of countries may have an economic advantage over the United States because using less energy to produce and distribute the same economic output costs them less. Their efforts to improve efficiency likely make their economies more nimble and resilient. This raises a critical question: looking forward, how can the United States compete in a global economy if it continues to waste money and energy that other industrialized nations save and can reinvest? This report offers a number of recommendations for the United States. Figure ES-1 shows a high level snap shot of the results of the report and four major opportunities for the United States.
In addition, the United States should follow through on efforts that it has already begun. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has drafted a proposal pursuant to Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act that could lead to improved efficiency of fossil-fuel power plants and increased investment in energy efficiency. The final rule should ensure that these efficiency improvements are realized. The Agency and the Department of Transportation are also in the process of finalizing fuel economy standards for light-duty vehicles. For light-duty vehicles, standards should be at least as stringent as the current provisional standards, and for heavy-duty vehicles the United States should set standards at 40% or more below 2010 levels.
By taking these steps, the United States would increase its world ranking in energy efficiency significantly. The opportunities for improvement in global competitiveness and economic resiliency in the United States and worldwide are considerable. Countries can preserve their resources, address global warming, stabilize their economies, and reduce the costs of their economic outputs by using energy more efficiently—an eminently achievable goal.
A country with high levels of energy efficiency, using less energy to achieve the same or better results, reduces costs and pollution, and supports a stronger, more competitive economy. 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 worldwide (Laitner et al. 2012).
This report has two primary goals. First, similar to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) State Energy Efficiency Scorecard (Downs et al. 2013b), this report analyzes a wide range of variables indicative of the overall energy efficiency of economically developed nations. The results of this analysis provide insight into the best policies and practices across nations, and constitute a benchmark that nations can use to improve their energy efficiency.
This report is the second edition of the International Energy Efficiency Scorecard; the first was released in 2012. In this edition of the report, we expanded our list of countries to include the world’s 16 largest economies (15 countries and the European Union (EU)). These global economies represent more than 81% of global gross domestic product (GDP), 71% of global energy consumption, and 79% of the global carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions.
This report identifies best practices across 31 key metrics directly related to a country’s overall energy efficiency. These metrics span three major economic sectors as well as take a cross-sector snapshot of national commitment to energy efficiency: national efforts, buildings, industry, and transportation. While no single metric can provide a complete picture of a nation’s energy efficiency, these metrics together give an indication of overall energy efficiency in a country compared to other countries.
This report is unique in that, in addition to compiling key information specifically related to the energy efficiency of a country, it provides complementary resources and analysis so that comparisons can be made, highlights best practices, and provides benchmarks by which countries’ progress toward improving their energy efficiency can be compared. The report includes a list of the best practices that received the highest score within each metric, graphics and discussions of each metric, and short summaries of results for each country.
This International Scorecard also offers specific recommendations for how the United States can reduce its energy waste, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, and strengthen its global competitiveness into the future…
The International Scorecard is only beginning to be able to identify trends, having been first published in 2012. While at first glance there appear to be many differences in the scores of some countries, and therefore trends, most of those differences can be explained by our addition of five new metrics and/or scoring adjustments (see the discussion of additions and adjustments in the Methodology section). For example, while China’s score increased by 6 points since the 2012 edition, the 6 points earned were from new metrics rather than from an improvement in its policies or performance in existing metrics. Given that there were many changes to metrics and scoring, we have not included a detailed comparison of the countries and their scores from the 2012 International Scorecard and this edition of the report.
Although a side-by-side comparison of past and current results does not prove particularly illuminating because of the still-narrow time frame, some trends can be identified. The most dramatic trend is the stagnation that many countries are experiencing. While there are some areas in which some countries have made progress; overall, countries are failing to adopt best practices, and if they improve, they do so in small increments. The story of stagnation and inaction applies to the United States in particular. The United States remained in the bottom third of the countries analyzed, and while it adopted fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles, the amount of combined heat and power (CHP) supplying electricity in the country declined. In addition, most of the best practices adopted in other nations have still not been adopted here.
Data in several countries indicate that, in some cases, efficiency investments and policies have been rolled back, and performance has declined. One country in which a clear backward trend exists is Australia. The country has dramatically reduced its investment in efficiency and has rolled back its efficiency incentive programs, causing its score to decline. Similarly, the UK has increased the interest rates on its efficiency loans and has limited its incentives for energy-efficient technologies.
The national efforts section conveys energy efficiency performance across all sectors of the economy as well as the overall commitment and leadership of the national governments. These metrics look at the performance of the electricity-generating fleet and the change in nations’ energy intensity over time. Metrics in this section examine national commitment by evaluating financial investment in energy efficiency overall and in research and development (R&D) in emerging technologies specifically. The metrics also evaluate policy indicators such as the presence of national energy savings goals and programs to engage the private sector using tax credits and loans.
Out of 25 possible points (see Table 11), the highest-scoring economies across the national efforts metrics are the EU, France, and Italy with 19 points. The EU stood out for having energy efficiency policies across the board. Japan tied for fifth but continues to have the highest efficiency of electricity production from thermal power plants out of all of the countries in our study, and it scored well due to energy efficiency spending, tax credits, and loan programs, as well as investment in R&D. The United States scored in the middle of the pack with 11 points, just above South Korea and below China and Spain. The United States is lacking national policies that set energy and water efficiency goals. The lowest-scoring countries included Mexico and Brazil, both of which lacked energy savings goals and had low levels of investment in energy efficiency programs and R&D.
Most countries had national energy savings goals of at least 1% savings per year on average as well as programs to encourage private investment in energy efficiency, such as loans and tax credits. National investment in energy efficiency varied widely across countries, but in some cases increased as part of a greenhouse-gas-mitigation strategy or an economic stimulus effort. We found a great deal of room for improvement in the efficiency of thermal power plants across all countries due to these power plants’ low operational efficiencies and high distribution losses…
As we mentioned above, in every metric at least one country received full points. This means that it is possible for countries to receive a perfect score. However, no country even approached a perfect score, and most countries receive roughly half of all possible points. There is significant—and in some cases dramatic—room for improvement across all countries analyzed. Moreover, there are great opportunities for nations to learn from one another by emulating best policies, practices, and performance. Table 44 summarizes some of the best outcomes and policies that countries can look to as recommended models for improving their energy efficiency…
Recommendations for Increasing U.S. Energy Efficiency
Across most metrics analyzed, the United States has made limited or little progress toward the goal of using energy more efficiently in recent years. In the 2012 International Scorecard the United States ranked ninth out of 12 countries evaluated, near the bottom of the pack. Unfortunately, the United States did not perform better in this second edition of the Scorecard. Overall, the United States did not move up and was ranked toward the bottom of the pack, 13th out of 16 countries. The overall U.S. score of 42 is less than half of the possible points and 23 points away from the top position, occupied by Germany. Further, the United States currently falls behind Japan, the EU, China, Canada, Australia and India.
In the national efforts section the United States ranked 11 out of 16 countries, behind Australia, China, and Spain, and ahead of South Korea. There are a few metrics in this section where the United States is performing well or in the middle of the pack. The United States received full points for its energy efficiency tax credit and loan programs, has a middle-of-the-pack level of investment in energy efficiency, and has a middle-of-the-pack level of efficiency in thermal power plants. However, the United States is one of only two countries with no national energy-savings plan or national greenhouse gas reduction plan. In addition, since the last International Scorecard the United States has seen a drop in its investment in energy efficiency R&D.
The United States performed the best in the buildings section, tying at eighth place with the UK. Compared to the 2012 International Scorecard, the United States’ score in this category did not change much. The United States’ EnergyGuide appliance label and ENERGY STAR® labels demonstrate best practices for developing voluntary appliance and equipment standards around the world, but would garner higher points if converted from a continuous to a categorical design. The United States also received credit for residential and commercial building codes in place despite lacking a national mandate, because a large number of states have stringent and technical standards in place. The overall energy intensity of the United States’ residential and commercial buildings is high relative to other countries.
There is room to improve in the industrial sector, where the United States ranked 13th. The United States has not yet employed mandatory energy audits or required on-site energy managers at manufacturing sites. The United States also has a relatively low level of CHP compared to other countries evaluated. One area where the United States is performing well is its relatively high level of investment in industrial R&D, second only to Japan.
The lowest-scoring section for the United States is the transportation sector, where the United States ranks second to lowest. The number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per person in the United States far exceeds the VMT by people anywhere else in the world, and use of public transit is very low. Current fuel economy standards are the bottom half of the countries with standards in place, and average fuel economy also remains lowest here. The United States should look to other countries that have implemented effective transportation policies to improve its performance in this sector, such as Italy, Japan, or the UK.
The low U.S. scores suggest that these other economically developed countries may have an economic advantage over the United States in that using less energy to produce and transport the same economic output costs less. This raises a critical question: how can the United States compete in a global economy if it continues to waste more money and energy than other developed economies?
The United States must turn the ship around and move in a direction that ensures that it retains a leadership role in the global economy. Here are potential components of such a sea change.
• National energy-savings target. Congress should pass a national energy-savings target to complement existing state policies and raise the bar for all states. Most of the countries analyzed in this International Scorecard have such targets. In the interim, the states without mandatory targets for utility energy savings should adopt such targets.
• Environmental regulation. As the Environmental Protection Agency moves forward on its regulation of carbon dioxide from automobiles, power plants, and other emitting sectors, it should develop regulations that maximize cost-effective energy efficiency as a mechanism to reduce pollution.
• Energy efficiency programs. Overall investment should be increased by utilities and governments (federal, state, and local) in energy efficiency programs to lower consumers’ energy bills and speed the transformation of markets for energy efficiency technologies and services.
• R&D investment. Increased investment is needed in R&D in energy efficiency to develop new technologies and practices.
• Federal and state-level financial incentives. The federal government should extend and improve federal tax credits and other financial incentives to encourage investment in energy efficiency. States should complement federal efforts, particularly in the areas of loans, loan guarantees, and loan-loss reserves.
• More efficient electricity generation. Government policies should be adopted that encourage utilities to retire old, inefficient power plants and ensure that any new power plants will be highly efficient.
• More efficient power distribution. Electric grid infrastructure should be modernized to reduce line losses. Utilities should deploy high-efficiency distribution transformers, advanced “smart grid” techniques, and increased utilization of distributed energy sources to reduce transmission and distribution losses.
• Building codes. The federal government should strengthen national model building codes. National model codes should be updated, and the federal government should provide technical assistance to states implementing and adopting energy efficiency building codes.
• Appliance standards. Governments and regulators should follow through on the implementation and enforcement of existing appliance standards, should regularly update standards, and should consider standards on additional products (e.g., pumps).
• Appliance labels. The current EnergyGuide appliance label should be switched from a continuous to a categorical, five-star label.
• Disclosure of energy use before the sale of buildings. State and local requirements should be implemented that require the disclosure of energy use and costs of residential and commercial buildings before the sale or lease of the property.
• Federal assistance for building owners. The federal government should provide assistance for building owners that upgrade their buildings and participate in programs such as ENERGY STAR.
• Energy management systems. Manufacturers should commit to continual improvement in reducing energy intensity of industrial facilities using Superior Energy Performance (SEP 2014), ISO 50001 (ISO 2011), and other voluntary platforms.
• Reasonable electricity buy-back rates for CHP. Governments and regulators should adopt policies that allow CHP systems to obtain reasonable electricity buy-back rates.
• On-site, expert energy managers. Industrial and manufacturing facilities should employ energy managers to find cost-effective ways of reducing energy use and energy intensity.
• Regular energy audits. Industrial and manufacturing facilities should undergo periodic energy audits.
• Partnerships between industry and government. Voluntary energy-saving partnerships between the government and industrial sector should be expanded.
• Industrial assessment centers. The federal government should support education and training in the manufacturing and industrial sectors. Government should support the manufacturing and industry sector to reduce the energy intensity of facilities by providing education, outreach, and training that will facilitate greater investment in energy efficiency and quicker adoption of systematic energy management practices.
• Fuel economy for light-duty vehicles. The federal government should determine the maximum feasible improvement for light-duty vehicle fuel economy for 2021-2025 in the upcoming midterm review of the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, and in particular set standards at least as stringent as the current provisional standards for that period.
• Fuel efficiency for heavy-duty vehicles. The federal government should adopt standards for heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency that would bring average new-vehicle fuel consumption to 40% or more below 2010 levels in model year 2025.
• Investment priority. The U.S. Congress should prioritize energy efficiency in transportation spending. Federal government budgets should apply energy efficiency performance metrics in prioritizing federal transportation investments and increase funding levels for energy-efficient modes of passenger and freight transport.
• Innovative technologies. Advances in fuel-efficient technologies should be continued, and investment in R&D for motor vehicles should be increased.
• Vehicle miles traveled. The United States should reconsider the pricing of transportation and should facilitate the adoption of policies such as pay-as-you-drive insurance, in which the cost of insurance is determined primarily by the number of miles traveled.
• Urban development. Incentives should be created to encourage more compact, transit-oriented development of cities and suburbs.
• Non-highway modes. Federal support should be increased for public transit, freight rail, and non-motorized modes of transportation.
• More efficient modes of freight transport. Policies should be adopted that increase intermodal freight transport and that shift freight from heavy-duty trucks to rail and waterway transit wherever possible.
This International Scorecard has provided a summary of energy efficiency in developed economies across the globe, and here at home the results are disappointing. The United States, once considered an innovative and competitive world leader, has moved slowly, while European countries, Japan, and China have surged ahead. Fortunately, the United States has many opportunities to improve its nationwide energy efficiency, and our comparison of 16 of the world’s largest economies provides examples of how the United States can do better. This analysis also revealed that, while some countries are clearly outperforming others, the biggest story is how all of these economies have substantial room for improvement. A highly efficient economy is well within reach of every country analyzed. The highest score in each of the 31 metrics was obtained by at least one, and in most cases more than one, top-performing country. The conditions required for a perfect score of 100 points are thus currently achievable and are in practice, yet the highest score obtained was only 65 points out of 100, and the average score was just 50.
In many areas the United States has failed to improve its efficiency significantly in recent years. More work is needed.
Countries that use energy more efficiently use fewer resources to achieve the same goals, thus reducing costs, preserving valuable natural resources, and gaining a competitive edge over countries where resources are wasted and costs are higher. The opportunities for improvement in the United States and worldwide are significant, and the need to rise to the challenge is serious. Countries can preserve their resources, address global warming, stabilize their economies, and reduce the costs of their economic output by using energy more efficiently—an eminently achievable goal.