According to new research, more needs to be done to develop energy efficient cars, buildings and appliances.
The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia published the study in Nature Climate Change this week, which reveals that twice as much effort is needed on developing new energy sources, as on using energy more sparingly.
Most public institutions, policies and resources favour energy generating technologies, says research Charlie Wilson, who led the study with scientists from Austria and the US.
But the research shows that improving the efficiency of energy-consuming technologies could make substantial contributions to emissions reductions and provide greater social returns on investment.
“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,” says Wilson.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), since 1974 the total public sector spend on energy end-use and efficiency innovations is around $38 billion.
“This is less than the $41 billion spent on nuclear fusion alone,” points out co-researcher Arnulf Grubler of Yale University. “Efficiency gets short shrift in both public energy research and development, and in private market investments alike.”
Renewable and alternative energy generation technologies benefit from investments of $160 billion, although fossil fuels still top $500 billion.
“The multitude of small-scale innovations that improve end-use efficiency often go unnoticed because they don’t have the glamour of solar panels and wind turbines,” says Wilson, “and they don’t benefit from well-established institutions, powerful market interests, and political influence.”