November 14, 2012

A competitive economy is an energy-efficient economy

ACEEE International Scorecard map

Story by Kiva Bottero Contributor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently released its first International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which rates the energy efficiency of the world’s 12 major economies. The UK came on top, followed by Germany and Italy with the U.S. trailing far behind at ninth place.

The 12 countries tracked in this study account for 63 percent of global energy consumption, 62 percent of CO2 equivalent emissions and 78 percent of the world’s GDP. The study looked at the top three energy-consuming sectors for developed countries: industry, buildings and transportation. It also tracked countries’ national energy consumption efforts, which cut across the other three sectors.

The report analyzed policy-related metrics, such as national energy savings targets and energy efficiency standards for appliances, as well as performance metrics that account for quantifiable energy use like a country’s energy consumption relative to GDP and energy consumption per residential sq. ft.

ACEEE International Scorecard map

Image: Courtesy of ACEEE


The UK led the way in industry, China in buildings and Italy, China, Germany and the UK were tied in transportation. Germany came out on top in terms of national efforts.

The U.S. ranked fourth in buildings, primarily because of its strong appliance and equipment standards (i.e. EnergyGuide and ENERGY STAR), but really lagged behind in the transportation sector. The study made some accommodations for the difference in country size, which inevitably impacts the comparative study of transportation, but admittedly could not account for the many factors that distinguish one country from another, leaving a country such as the U.S. at a disadvantage because of its great size.

The greatest benefit of these rankings comes from learning who does what best.

“The conditions required for a perfect score are currently achievable and in practice, somewhere on the globe,” the report states. “For every metric, at least one country (and often several) received full points. However, every country has serious weaknesses.”

Most countries only scored half of the total number of points, leaving much room for improvement.

ACEEE Scorecard Comparison

Image: Courtesy of ACEEE.

Looking forward

Energy efficiency is a resource. The report points out that energy-efficient countries can achieve the same goals using less resources, enabling them to cut costs and making them more competitive than wasteful countries such as the U.S., Canada and Russia because they’re able to save and reinvest what they otherwise would have squandered.

Looking forward the study focuses on the U.S., making suggestions for the country to better compete in the global economy. Recommendations include:

National energy savings target – Developing a national target that complements state policies and raises the bar for states. Most countries analyzed in this report use targets such as these.

Financial incentives – Tax credits, loans and loan loss reserves should be made more available to boost private investment.

R&D investment – To develop new technologies and processes more money needs to be invested in energy efficiency research and development.

Power plant efficiency – Utilities need encouragement through government policy to phase out their old power plants in exchange for more efficient ones.

Vehicle miles traveled – Transportation should be priced according to the distance traveled (i.e. “pay-as-you-drive” insurance).

Adopting changes such as these will make the U.S. economy (and all countries’ economies) more competitive and resilient. Since some countries are already ahead of the game in progressing towards a new energy economy, just keeping up may demand making these changes. By simply focusing on the largely untapped resource of energy efficiency, the U.S. can preserve its valuable natural resources, save money, stabilize its economy and reinvest for a better future.

To read the full report, visit the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Photo: (Feature Image) Courtesy of ACEEE.

About the Author

Kiva Bottero
Kiva edits The Mindful Word journal of engaged living ( and Green Building Canada (