Report: Efficiency Improvements Could Cut World's Industrial Energy Use by Up to 26 Percent

A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests there is a potential for technical efficiency improvements of 18 percent to 26 percent for the global manufacturing industry, and energy savings could be larger if new technologies are taken into account.

"The potential is so large that more efforts are warranted in order to achieve deep CO2 (carbon dioxide) emission reductions, reduce fossil fuel dependence and increase industrial competitiveness," said Claude Mandil, executive director of the Paris-based IEA.

The report, "Tracking Industrial Energy Efficiency and CO2 Emissions," shows that efficiencies differ widely between countries producing similar products and using similar processes, which is a clear indication of the potential for further efficiency gains. This finding is of global significance as manufacturing industry accounts for 36 percent of world CO2 emissions.

"Good information and analyses of trends in energy and emissions -- or indicators -- are vital," Mandil said. This study elaborates a set of powerful new indicators that look at energy use per unit of physical product. This approach has been developed in close collaboration with industry experts.

Much of the efficiency differences that have been identified can be attributed to the age of industrial facilities. New plants tend to be more efficient than older ones. Also, industrial energy efficiency is consistently high in certain IEA member countries such as Japan, which has had active efficiency policies for decades.

Another notable finding is that China accounts for four-fifths of the growth in industrial production and CO2 emissions during the past 25 years, IEA officials stated. China is now the single largest industrial producer of a wide range of energy intensive industrial commodities, such as aluminum, ammonia, cement and steel. The rapid growth of production in less efficient developing countries has limited the average efficiency gains worldwide.

"Improving industrial energy efficiency is an approach that can help developing countries in their economic growth and contribute to a significant global greenhouse gas reduction," Mandil noted.

According to the IEA, much is known about the efficiency of specific industrial processes, but there is room for improvement about the knowledge of the overall energy efficiency of conventional factory systems and product life cycles. This includes motor and steam systems, combined heat and power generation and the efficiency of materials and resource use. The analysis identifies even greater potential for energy savings in these areas. This offers important additional opportunities for decision makers to reduce the energy and CO2 footprint.

For more information, contact IEA at

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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