Countries are often evaluated on the speed at which they install new renewable energy technologies; China, for example, is often lauded for its rapidly-growing solar power generating capacity, even while coal consumption continues to surge. Clearly, renewable energy installations don’t tell us everything. Energy efficiency—doing more with less—is just as important.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently published the first-ever International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which evaluates the energy efficiency of 12 of the world’s largest economies across 27 metrics, including energy efficiency spending, residential and commercial building codes, energy intensity of the industrial sector, appliance and equipment standards, and investment in rail transit.
The results, from most to least efficient: the United Kingdom; Germany; Italy; Japan; France; the European Union, Australia, and China (3-way tie); the U.S.; Brazil; Canada; and Russia.
ACEEE is a U.S. organization, so it came up with a list of recommendations for the U.S. to improve its standing. The (fairly obvious) tips include increasing national funding for public transit, enforcing and updating appliance standards, modernizing the power grid, making sure that all new power plants are highly efficient, and using stringent building code standards—all the things that higher-ranking countries are already doing.
Overall, though, none of the countries on the list are doing as well as they should. In every single one of the 27 metric measured, at least one country got a perfect score of 100 points. But overall, no country scored higher than 67. The average was a meager 54 points. As the report explains: "This analysis also revealed that while some countries are clearly outperforming others, the biggest story is how poorly all these economies are doing overall."