Energy ministers from the world's largest economies have formally launched the first high-level body focused exclusively on advancing energy efficiency worldwide.
While several international forums exchange energy advice, the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC) [PDF] seeks to elevate that information to a level that affects policymaking.
"There's been a growing desire for international collaboration on energy efficiency," said David Rogers, director of strategic planning and analysis for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. "[The IPEEC] fills a gap in international collaboration at the decision maker level."
The partnership was first proposed last year by leaders of the world's largest industrialized economies - G8 countries including the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Russia, and Canada - along with China, India, and South Korea. At the G8 Energy Ministers Meeting in Rome last week, Brazil and Mexico joined as the partnership was officially signed.
Among its early actions, IPEEC will inventory the member nations' domestic energy efficiency policies. The partnership also plans to share best-practice advice for efficiency standards, codes, and labels.
"This will help, we think, since energy efficiency is often the lowest-cost, fastest path to energy savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions," said Rogers, who helped promote the partnership at last year's G8 meeting in Hokkaido, Japan. "Doing an inventory and sharing the plans is a good way for countries to compare themselves and say, ‘Look - Europe, Japan, the United States, Australia all have very active appliance standard programs and building codes, maybe I should be looking at that, too.'"
Comparing the energy efficiency of various countries is currently a difficult task, Rogers said, because inconsistent evaluation tools are used to measure building codes or other efficiency mechanisms. "Many tools exist, but many have not been widely used," he said.
The partnership will also focus on domestic and global finance mechanisms, joint research initiatives, and expanded consumer awareness.
Buildings consume an estimated 30-40 percent of final energy consumption worldwide, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. To improve building efficiencies and implement renewable energy for cooling and heating, the G8 launched the Sustainable Buildings Network in 2007, but it has remained essentially at a standstill ever since. The G8 has renewed its support, however, as the network is now part of IPEEC.
A policy example that IPEEC may help spread worldwide is public-private arrangements with energy service companies, or ESCOs, Rogers said. ESCOs have received government support in the United States and China to lower a client's energy costs at no cost to the client. In return, the ESCO collects the energy savings during a payback period.
Another potential policy is the use of energy efficiency certificates [PDF]. In regions that mandate certain efficiency advances, industries that cannot meet the target may instead purchase certificates, also known as white tags, from other business that do meet the targets. White tag programs have been implemented in several European Union member nations and in the United States.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated in its 2007 assessment report that energy efficiency could allow the world's economies to avoid 30 percent of the projected greenhouse gas emissions associated with the building sector by 2030.
More-efficient buildings address climate change, improve indoor and outdoor air quality, and result in net economic gain. But poor access to technology, proper financing, and reliable information, in addition to a general poverty gap, have placed many efficiency advances beyond reach in several regions worldwide, the IPCC said.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) will host the IPEEC Secretariat in its Paris headquarters. Although the IEA is restricted to members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), IPEEC is intended to act as a global institution.
"Energy efficiency is considered such a global priority," Rogers said. "We've got to be sure that the best energy efficiency practices and technologies are used worldwide."
Photo credit: Flickr/Neogabox.