Retrofitting buildings and doubling the pace of energy efficiency key topics at IEA conference in Paris

Retrofitting buildings and doubling the pace of energy efficiency key topics at IEA conference in Paris

“A new clean energy world is emerging fast; faster than many people realize,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol shared with ministers, CEOs and the EU Commissioner for Energy that were gathered in Versailles, Paris, for the IEA Global Conference on Energy Efficiency.

Birol added that there was a 40% increase in solar energy production last year and mentioned that the amount of investments going into solar is higher than the number of investments going into oil production, something that is “extremely important and symbolic”.

The 8th edition of the IEA’s Global Conference on Energy Efficiency is co-hosted by France’s Minister for Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher and IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, and organised in partnership with Schneider Electric.

In his opening remarks, Fatih Birol shared some promising numbers with the 700 participants from more than 80 countries, including over 30 ministers and 50 CEOs.

Energy in numbers

Said Birol: “We see a huge growth in EVs, with one vehicle in 5 being electric”, “nuclear power is making a comeback”, and “heat pumps are taking over the traditional heating systems”. All quite promising developments on their own.

That said, the Executive Director of IEA did mention that “we are still far from reaching our climate and energy target”. However, “We are definitely on the right track. The determination of many countries around the world makes me happy,” he said.

He also mentioned a special briefing report published today for the Global Conference  Energy Efficiency: The Decade for Action – which highlights that ramping up annual energy efficiency progress from 2.2% today to over 4% annually by 2030 would deliver vital reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time create jobs, expand energy access, reduce energy bills, decrease air pollution, and diminish countries’ reliance on fossil fuel imports – among other social and economic benefits.

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Reducing energy consumption

For the Minister for Energy Transition of France, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, one of the most important elements – and a focus point for the Macron administration – is reducing energy consumption.

The French sufficiency energy plan, which aimed mainly at the public sector last year, “helped the country reduce by 12% its fossil fuel consumption” said the Minister, while the second phase will commence in a few months “with the training of young people at school, and asking all sectors to follow last year’s example of the public sector”.

Pannier-Runacher also shared the recipe for success when it comes to energy efficiency. “Reinforcing the energy security, building renovation and automation systems and more EVs”.

Retrofitting existing buildings

Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman of Schneider Electric, addressed the room saying that “optimizing how we consume energy is a priority”. Green, safe and affordable energy that everybody can access makes the top of the priority list too.

He also said that “we must focus on buildings because they are the biggest contributors to the reduction of emissions”.

Indeed, according to his presentation, 99% of carbon emissions are due to the operation of existing buildings, while 75% of our buildings are inefficient, according to the EU’s definition.

Another focus point for the Chairman of Schneider Electric was the digitalisation of said buildings, which is happening as we speak. In fact, he said, “We are at the beginning of the digital revolution in buildings”.

Learning from the crisis

A highlight of the second day of the event was the ministerial panel discussion moderated by Fatih Birol. Energy and Climate ministers from Togo, Kenya and Denmark, together with the EU Commissioner for Energy, the World Green Building Council CEO and the Chinese Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, discussed global policy.

EU Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simpson focused on alliances with like-minded countries and the need for behavioural change when it comes to energy consumption, as well as the urgency of creating national energy and climate plans for every EU country.

Mr Zhao Chenxin on the other hand focused on the many accomplishments of China on wind and solar energy production, as well as rapid development of Electric Vehicles in the country.

All three ministers focused on the financial challenges that we need to overcome when it comes to energy efficiency and the energy transition.

An interesting moment in the discussion was when the Danish minister mentioned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the issues it causes for the energy sector, saying that he was sure everybody in the panel would agree with him.