Brian Motherway, Head of Energy Efficiency at the International Energy Agency (IEA) tells us that there is still a lot of untapped potential when it comes to energy efficiency. The IEA is an organization that works with governments around the world to help them implement better energy policies, especially relating to sustainability and working towards clean energy and reduced carbon emissions. Mr. Motherway reminds us that it is not just about what kind of energy we use, but also about how we as people and society use it. Energy efficiency is a key topic in today’s energy discussion.
While the origins of the IEA lie in the need to ensure an adequate energy supply to meet the needs of people and economies, over time it has become more and more clear that a big part of ensuring availability has to do with gaining an understanding of how people use energy. The consumption of energy, whether by private households, commerce and industry or the transportation sector, is a particularly important factor as we strive towards improved sustainability and decreased reliance on carbon-intensive fuels. “It is very difficult to imagine economies tackling climate change without leading strongly with energy efficiency. It provides a real opportunity to reduce emissions in a very cost effective and short-term way that can help drive the decarbonisation of energy systems quickly,” Brian Motherway explains.
Throughout our conversation, he stresses the fact that the focus of the sustainability and climate change conversation is perhaps too concentrated on the energy supply side and eliminating fossil fuels. He states that governments could really see economic benefits from implementing energy policies with a stronger focus on energy efficiency in their fight against climate change. While huge leaps have been taken to improve energy efficiency, the research carried out by the IEA shows that there is still a lot that can be achieved. “In fact, every sector of the economy could become twice as efficient over the next two decades if there was a stronger policy focus on energy efficiency. And of course, in every sector there are opportunities whether it’s making our buildings more efficient or making our vehicles or transport systems more efficient. And of course, in industry too there is a huge opportunity to make key technologies such as motors, drives, pumps and fans more efficient.”
When asked about where technological development is most urgently needed to improve efficiency, Brian Motherway was quick to remind us that many such technologies already exist. “There are many new technologies that are ready and should be deployed. We just need to be a lot faster at deploying those technologies.” He feels that there is a lot of inefficiency locked into the things we use daily; building, vehicles, appliances and such. “There’s a real urgent need to concentrate on stopping that lock in and really just making everything that is built or bought or installed today as efficient as it possibly can be.” He goes on to say that he is extremely happy to see that attitudes have changed over time. “I think there has never been a stronger focus than today on energy efficiency and that’s good to see. I think there’s a better understanding among governments that energy efficiency has a very strong role to play in climate change, but also in making energy systems, more resilient, more affordable, bringing energy to more people around the world.”
As the Head of Energy Efficiency at IEA, Brian Motherway has a unique view into the world of energy. While he pointed out the many areas where plenty of progress has already been made – electric vehicles, energy efficient homes and more efficient industrial motors to name a few – he recognized digitalization as the next thing to revolutionize the energy efficiency game. “When digitalization really gets deployed in terms of artificial intelligence, big data and the optimization of systems, I think we’ll see a whole new generation of potential opening up. Even when every component is already efficient, with advanced control and advanced digital technology, we’ll be able to take that to the next level in terms of optimizing and making things even more efficient.”
In 2021 The International Energy Agency is working very closely together with the UK government in conjunction with their COP26 presidency (The United Nations Climate Change Conference), helping them encourage other world governments to raise their ambitions regarding energy efficiency. “It’s all about governments around the world saying, we want to move faster to higher levels of efficiency, and we can do that together. The more global the conversation, the more collaborative and harmonized the policies, the more effective they can be.” Brian Motherway is clearly optimistic about the future and believes that 2021 will be an important year for global energy efficiency development. He feels that it is equally important for individuals, companies and governments to set their ambitions high and demanding the same from those around them.
He finished off our inspirational conversation with a few good tips on how we as individuals can do our part and make a difference in creating a more energy efficient and sustainable world. “I think the most important thing all of us can do as individuals, is to be part of that societal movement. We need to express to our elected officials our impatience for stronger policies. We need to see ourselves as part of the collective solution and a part of the bigger picture in addressing these issues.”
Let’s all be part of the social movement towards energy efficiency.
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