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Energy efficiency and the wealth of a country. A relationship with a great future

In 2020, the European Union set a target to improve its energy efficiency level by 20% compared to 1990 levels. Read on if you want to know what energy efficiency is and how it affects the wealth of a country. One clue, everything is getting better.

Energy makes the world go round And it makes the economy go around as well. Countries, both developed and developing, have for years been growing according to a direct relationship between greater energy availability and a greater degree of economic development. Is this also the case with human development?

Throughout the 20th century, the economic development of countries has implied an increase in energy consumption. Ever more and ever faster, with exponential global growth driven by the developing countries.

We need energy for everything because we have made energy the basis of our current way of life: travel, production of goods and services, leisure...

The result of this energy model based on non-renewable and highly polluting fossil fuels is the acceleration of climate change as a result of constant CO2 emissions.

But something has started to change. With the new century, renewables started to take over, and so began the decline of coal and oil (although fossil fuels still make up the majority of our energy consumption). But above all our mentality has changed.

The developed societies have a different conception of energy. Both when producing it and consuming it. Now the environment matters and it is time to contribute to the sustainability of the planet. How? 

By boosting energy efficiency.

1. What is energy efficiency?

In short, the efficient use of energy.

Whether we are talking about devices, processes or facilities, they are considered energy efficient when they consume less energy than average to carry out an activity. That is, they use less energy to do the same amount of work.

We just have to look around to see how energy efficiency has opened up its own way forward and has, little by little, gained an important position in our lives: energy-efficient appliances, LED bulbs that use twenty times less than incandescent ones, cars that travel 100 km on 3.5 litres, passive housing that hardly consumes anything in order to control its temperature, etc. Change is here and it is unstoppable. Let's see how it influences the economy.

2. A new growth factor

No one doubts that the conscious use of energy sources and energy saving are the way to go. Both for the good of the planet and because they represent a major focus for economic and social development going forward.

Improving energy efficiency and employment go hand in hand - they are a winning team.

In Spain, for example, 80% of buildings are energy inefficient. This makes them responsible for 40% of energy consumption and no less than a third of CO2 emissions. But we have state-of-the-art technical regulation.

In the real estate sector alone, applying the measures proposed by the government could generate up to 88,000 new jobs a year. If we broaden the vision to all sectors (industry, mobility, new technologies, R+D+i, etc.) job creation amounts to 250,000 to 360,000 new jobs.

And this is only one small part. Energy efficiency plans also aim to reduce polluting fossil fuel imports by €75 billion between 2021 and 2030, which implies a 1.8% increase in GDP in that same year. And incidentally, this gives a strong boost to renewables.

The connection is very clear, in the 21st century a country's wealth will be linked to its ability to use energy efficiently.

“Energy efficiency can quickly generate job growth and become a sustainable employment sector in the long term.”

3. Are the most advanced countries more efficient?

In principle, it seems that economic development and the search for energy efficiency go hand in hand. At least in the European Union, and this is reflected in the global study The 2018 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard. A report examining energy efficiency policies and performance in different sectors of the 25 most energy consuming countries. 

This ranking, which scores out of 100, has two countries tying for first place: Germany and Italy with 75.5. They are followed by France with 73.5 and the United Kingdom with 73. The first non-European country is Japan and then Spain (which, in addition, ranks first in energy efficiency in buildings due to its technical regulations).

As a curiosity, China is three places ahead of the United States, India is more efficient than Australia and the last places are occupied by two oil-producing countries: United Arab Emirates (24th) and Saudi Arabia (25th).

This indicates that the commitment to energy efficiency must be cross-cutting and involve all social, economic and political actors in a country.

4. And the least efficient?

According to the International Energy Agency, 13% of the world's population does not yet have access to electricity. To reverse this situation without harming the planet, one of the great points of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 is to ensure that this global access to electricity is carried out with clean energy. A renewable source of growth based on sustainability and respect for the environment.

For our part, we can collaborate by choosing more efficient appliances and 100% renewable supplies. A commitment to the future that benefits us all.

In this table you can see the place that each country occupies in the energy efficiency ranking together with its Human Development Index. An indicator prepared by the United Nations that classifies countries taking into account other variables beyond economic ones: life expectancy, health, education, employment, studies, etc.

ACEEE Energy Efficiency Ranking 2018
Human Development Index
(5) 0,939
75,5 (28) 0,883
73,5 (24) 0,891
United Kingdom
73 (14) 0,92
67 (19) 0,915
65,5 (26) 0,893
65 (10) 0,933
59,5 (85) 0,758
55,5 (12) 0,922
55,5 (13) 0,92
54 (76) 0,767
South Korea
52,5 (23) 0,906
51 (32) 0,872
50,5 (129) 0,647
50 (59) 0,806
45 (111) 0,707
40,5 (3) 0,938
38 (88) 0,75
36,5 (79) 0,761
34,5 (49) 0,824
29 (77) 0,765
South Africa
23,25 (113) 0,705
United Arab Emirates
(35) 0,866
Saudi Arabia
16,5 (36) 0,857
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