Government cuts to key policies have hit the
UK’s efforts to become more energy efficient, a new report

A series of policy rollbacks have seen the UK fall from
first to sixth
in a ranking of 16 of the world’s leading
economies by US thinktank the American Council for an Energy
Efficient-Economy (ACEEE). Germany now tops the list, with Italy,
China, and France all coming in ahead of the UK.

ACEEE awarded each country points based on 31 criteria.
Countries could receive a maximum of 100 points overall depending
on the strength of their national energy efficiency policies, and
efforts to curb energy use in the transport, buildings and
industrial sectors. See this table for a
full list of the criteria.

Source: ACEEE,
2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard

About half ACEEE’s criteria were actually quantifiable – taking
into account a change in a country’s energy intensity or the number
of miles each country’s citizens travel by car. The rest were more
dependent on ACEEE’s researchers’ judgements about how well
country’s energy efficiency programmes were progressing. So the
scores and rankings should probably be taken with a pinch of

Nonetheless, ACEEE’s analysis does give some insight into a
range of comparable countries’ efforts to curb energy

UK policies

The UK government’s stalled efforts to improve residential
energy efficiency and curb industrial energy use were seen as the
country’s main failures since ACEEE’s last report.

The UK scored well on national efforts – getting 18 points out
of 25 – as it spends a lot on researching energy efficient
technologies, and participates in a
range of EU schemes
to curb energy use. ACEEE were less
impressed with the UK’s sector-specific efforts to improve energy
efficiency, however.

Source: ACEEE,
2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard

The government’s flagship policy to improve the energy
efficiency of UK homes, the Green Deal,
has been less effective than was anticipated back in 2012, ACEEE

2,828 homes made home improvements via the Green Deal
by the
end of May, government statistics show. That’s a long way short of
the government’s ambition – former climate minister Greg Barker
said he would struggle to sleep
if 10,000 homes hadn’t taken up the offer
by the end of last

government also weakened a policy
requiring energy suppliers to
subsidise home insulation for low-income households. Last December,
ministers agreed to give suppliers four years rather than two to
achieve their Energy Company Obligation
. The cut means the number of homes insulated under
government energy efficiency programmes could fall from 80,000 in
2012 to 25,000 in 2014, according to UK industry group the Association
for the Conservation of Energy

The UK needs to do more to curb industrial
energy use, ACEEE says. The energy intensity of the UK’s industrial
sector – measured in terms of how much energy is consumed for each
dollar of GDP generated – is relatively high, at almost three
British Thermal Units per dollar. In top-ranked Germany, it’s
closer to two.

ACEEE recommends two policies that could lead to improvements:
forcing companies to employ personnel to specifically identify how
energy can be used more efficiently, and requiring industries to
undertake periodic reviews of their energy use. Both measures would
help the private sector take the lead on identifying areas where
efficiency improvements could be made. A number of other countries
including Russia, China and Italy already make such demands, ACEEE
points out.

So the UK isn’t doing as well in the energy efficiency stakes as
it once was, according to ACEEE’s criteria. Though predicting how
recent changes to the UK’s energy policy will pan out is
notoriously difficult
, as network operator National Grid
pointed out last week.

European direction

The UK could potentially be forced to reverse the trend ACEEE
identifies by a European Commission announcement on Wednesday.

The European Commission’s president-elect, Jean
Claude Juncker, is set to go head to head with current president
Jose Manuel Barroso over the level of new EU energy efficiency
targets. Juncker has called for
minimum improvement of 30 per cent
. Barroso
favours a target of between 27 and 29 per cent.

The higher the EU target is, the more the UK is
likely to need to do to curb energy use. That could mean
stepping up efforts
to improve the UK’s
energy efficiency across sectors, rather than rolling back its
previous commitments.