he United Kingdom has beaten 11 other developed economies around the
world to rank first in a study of their relative energy efficiency.
However, the report notes that it is only making two thirds of the
possible savings identified, with improvements most required in freight
transport, fuel efficiency and the use of public transport.
The UK is followed closely by Germany, Japan, and Italy, according to an International Energy Efficiency Scorecard published today by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
The US itself ranks ninth, with Russia at the bottom. The report
finds that in the last decade, America has made "limited or little
progress toward greater efficiency at the national level".
The rankings are modeled on ACEEE’s time-tested approach to energy
efficiency ranking of U.S. states, and rank 12 of the world’s largest
economies, which together represent over 78% of global gross domestic
product, 63% of global energy consumption, and 62% of the global carbon
dioxide equivalent emissions.
On a scale of 100 possible points in 27 categories, the nations are ranked as follows:
the United Kingdom – 67
Germany – 66
Japan – 62
Italy – 63
France – 60
the European Union, Australia, and China (3-way tie) – 56
the U.S.- 47
Brazil – 41
(11) Canada – 37
Russia – 36
ACEEE divided the 27 metrics across four categories: cross-cutting
aspects of energy use at the national level, buildings, industry, and
transportation. The top-scoring countries in each grouping are:
Germany (national efforts)
the United Kingdom (industry)
and a tie among Italy, China, Germany, and the United Kingdom (transportation).
Energy and climate change secretary, Ed Davey, welcomed the results,
but acknowledged that the UK still had a way to go: "Making our
buildings and industries more energy efficient is a significant
challenge, one that will take years to meet; doing so cost effectively
will mean drawing on the experiences of others".
The study says that UK energy consumption per square foot of
residential building space is relatively high, but the energy intensity
of commercial buildings is moderate compared to that of other
industrialised nations. This is because of the mandatory building codes.
It praises the UK for having the highest percentage of electricity
consumed by the industrial sector that is generated from combined heat
and power; significantly more than any other country. The UK also has
the second lowest amount of energy consumed by the industrial sector
relative to industrial GDP.
On the downside, the study notes that, despite this, investment is
low in research and development in the manufacturing sector relative to
total GDP. It says there are a number of policies that should be put in
place, such as requiring periodic energy audits and mandating on-site
energy managers in manufacturing plants.
Average passenger vehicle fuel economy is high, though vehicle miles
travelled per person is also relatively high. The use of public
transport is low compared to other economic developed nations, and this
fact was singled out for requiring the most attention by British
policymakers. However, national investment in rail compared to roads is
higher than any other nation.
But the energy required to move a tonne of freight one mile is higher
in the UK than in any other nation, revealing that the logistics sector
has much room for improvement. On the other hand, the number of miles
travelled by the average tonne of freight in relation to GDP is the
second lowest of all countries studied.
The UK is called 'exemplary' for having adopted energy-saving
targets, including the Energy Efficiency Action Plan adopted in 2004. It
is also praised for its Climate Change Agreements and the Climate
"This study, and others like it, will make a valuable contribution to
our understanding not just of the problems, but also the solutions,"
said Ed Davey. “It is a fascinating collection of best practice, setting
out the innovations which can accelerate economic growth, enhance
energy security – and save our households and businesses money."
ACEEE executive director Steven Nadel said: "The UK and the leading
economies of Europe are now well ahead of the United States when it
comes to energy efficiency. This is significant because countries that
use energy more efficiently require fewer resources to achieve the same
goals, thus reducing costs, preserving valuable natural resources, and
But he added: "Unfortunately, our results show that nowhere is the
vast potential for improvements in energy efficiency being completely
realized. For example, the United States scored relatively high in
buildings, but was at the bottom of the list in transportation.”
He said that all countries could learn from each other by adopting the relevant best practice.
Report author and ACEEE senior researcher Sara Hayes said:
"Cost-effective energy efficiency remains a massively underutilised
energy resource. Fortunately, there is a lot countries can do to
strengthen their economic competitiveness through improvements in energy