The cheapest least polluting energy is energy that is not consumed. We can save energy in all areas of everyday life: transport, housing, domestic and electric appliances… Saving energy on a daily basis is the most effective means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 billion tons of CO2 by 2030.
If all European Union citizens replaced their incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving bulbs – a step that is gradually becoming compulsory – they would save almost 40 terawatts hour. This is the equivalent of the annual production of ten electric power stations and would reduce CO2 emissions by about 15 million tons a year.
The energy saved by these types of efficiency measures is quantified by the concept of negawatts – “fewer watts” . For example, by using an energy-saving 20-watt bulb instead of a classic incandescent 80-watt one, one gains 60 negawatts.
Energy efficiency has already shown it works on a large scale. Indeed, during the clashes over oil in the 1970s, France, like many other countries, successfully established energy-saving policies. Over the 1973-1987 period, 100 billion Francs (15 billion Euros) were invested in energy efficiency. This saved almost as much energy as the French nuclear program produced – for 500 billion Francs.
Energy that is saved is financially profitable. In a lot of cases, it even makes money. By 2020, it could save OECD countries over 100 billion Euros. However, this path has not been explored much as it means lower consumption and production compared to the usual targets which are “evermore” demanding.