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Urgent Need for Progress on Energy Efficiency in China, Brazil, India

With energy prices and greenhouse gas emissions ballooning at the same time as energy demand from China, India and Brazil is surging, the world has a major stake in successful energy reduction efforts in these big developing nations, says a new World Bank book released Wednesday.

The book, Financing Energy Efficiency: Lessons from Brazil, China, India, and Beyond, says that without significant gains from energy efficiency efforts, China, India and Brazil will more than double their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions within a single human generation (by 2030).

It finds that cost-effective retrofits could reduce those countries' energy use today by at least 25 percent and advanced technologies could reduce their energy demand growth by 2030 by at least 10 percent and reduce projected CO2 emission growth by 16 percent.

"We dissected the energy efficiency terrain through this study to find out why it's so hard to get the right incentives in place so that more investment can happen," said Bob Taylor -- a key author and World Bank energy economist. "What we found is enormous untapped potential -- especially in Brazil, China and India -- but plenty of good solutions that can work as long as the financing and investment environment is in place and there’s plenty of commitment from policy makers."

The book focuses on China, India, and Brazil as three of the world's top 10 energy consumers. Together these countries are home to 40 percent of the world's population and account for well over half of all energy demand by developing countries. By 2030, they’ll be responsible for 42 percent of growth in energy demand worldwide.

Energy efficiency is critical in those three countries "for reasons of energy supply security, economic competitiveness, improvement in livelihoods, and environmental sustainability," the book says.

But through lessons learned over the past 10 years, the main obstacle to getting energy efficiency off the ground, according to the book, is inadequate organizational and institutional systems as well as accessing the necessary funds. Businesses and banks need to be convinced that investing in more energy efficient boilers, waste recovery systems or energy-saving lighting pays off and justifies the risks.

In the big three countries, there is gradual improvement. In China, a commercially viable energy efficiency sector is now emerging after a decade of strong government support. In India, banks have launched programs for small energy efficiency projects in certain industries, which are now ready to be scaled up. And in Brazil, an energy efficiency fund derived from utility company revenues provides one platform for further improvements.

"We see progress being made but when you think about the sort of energy demand of even one of these countries in the next decade, the need for action and much faster progress is very clear," says Bob Taylor.

(China Development Gateway February 28, 2008)

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