Synergies between Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

August 2015

A joint working paper from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency (C2E2) illuminates crucial synergies that can help to ensure a sustainable global energy future.

The interplay between energy efficiency improvements and the deployment of renewable energy technologies is complex. If the respective potentials in these two fields are combined, total global energy demand can be reduced by up to a quarter by 2030, IRENA and C2E2 find. Energy efficiency measures would account for half to three-quarters of the total energy savings, with renewables delivering the rest.

Demand reduction through renewables depends on adopting modern technologies, including efficient cook stoves that increase conversion efficiency 2-3 times, electrification equipment like geothermal or air heat pumps that deliver 3-4 times their power consumption in the form of heating or cooling, and power sources like solar and wind that require no thermal conversion and therefore waste no fuel.

Quantitative analysis used data for eight countries – China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States – covering half of global energy use.

The working paper stems from collaboration between C2E2 and IRENA based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative, which aims to achieve three interlinked global objectives:

  • Ensuring universal access to modern energy services;
  • Doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency;
  • Doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix.

Achieving the objective for renewables depends on also achieving the efficiency objective. Similarly, increasing the share of renewables results in faster improvement of energy efficiency improvement rate, the paper finds.

C2E2 was identified as the energy efficiency hub and IRENA as the renewable energy hub for the initiative.

IRENA’s guiding document in that role is REmap 2030 – a global roadmap for doubling renewable energy in the world’s energy mix by 2030. In addition to the power sector, REmap analysis considers the three end-use sectors of buildings, industry and transport.

Increasing renewables from 18% in 2010 to 36% by 2030 will create jobs, reduce pollution and provide half of the emission cuts needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Following such a path is not only technically feasible but more affordable than current energy policies.