Saving electricity in a hurry

July 7, 2011 | 00:00

Saving electricity in a hurry

Electricity shortfalls occur when demand outpaces electricity available to customers. Shortages in energy supply for electricity generation can cause electricity shortfalls, as can insufficient generation, transmission and distribution capacity.

Prolonged electricity shortfalls can reduce economic competitiveness by creating uncertainty in electricity supply and increasing electricity costs. The impact of an electricity shortfall on an economy can be high. Load shedding cost the Pakistani economy several USD billion in 2007 alone (Burki, 2009). Power outages resulting from the 2009‐10 electricity shortfall in Ethiopia led to an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) loss of 1.5% (Tsehaye et al., 2010). Canada’s total GDP in August 2003 fell 0.7% following the summer blackout in Ontario (Statistics Canada, 2003).

The environmental impacts of a prolonged electricity shortfall can also be significant. Faced with mandatory rationing or indiscriminate blackouts caused by load shedding, consumers often invest in expensive on‐site electricity generation produced by air‐polluting fuels such as diesel (ESMAP, 2010).

IEA analysis shows that many of the negative impacts experienced as a result of an electricity shortfall can be avoided, or at least minimised, with the application of proven energy‐saving strategies. In the 2005 book Saving Electricity in a Hurry, the IEA presented case studies in which countries minimised the negative impacts of electricity shortfalls by implementing emergency energy‐saving programmes. Such programmes used a range of tools such as rationing, price signals, technology replacement and information campaigns to encourage energy savings. These tools stimulated and enabled consumers to quickly curb wasteful energy practices, delay certain activities to non‐peak times and replace old technologies with more energy‐efficient ones. Countries achieved energy savings ranging from 0.5% (France) to 20% (Brazil) as a result of these energy‐saving programmes.

Electricity shortfalls continue to plague many countries. In the years since Saving Electricity in a Hurry was published, electricity shortfalls have occurred in nearly every part of the world. Electricity shortfalls will likely continue to occur as political, regulatory and financial hurdles make it difficult for government and energy utilities to invest the estimated USD 16.6 trillion needed to meet projected 2% annual electricity demand growth over the next 25 years (IEA, 2010d).

Developing emergency demand‐side energy‐saving programmes as insurance against delays in supply additions may be an effective strategy for many governments to consider. Relatively few studies analyse the impact of emergency energy‐saving programmes or describe proven practice in this area. This IEA information paper adds to the existing literature by highlighting preliminary findings and conclusions from recent case studies of electricity shortfalls in Japan, the United States, New Zealand, South Africa and Chile. It draws from recent work by the World Bank and others to:
 reinforce well‐established guidelines on diagnosing electricity shortfalls, identifying energysaving
opportunities and selecting a package of energy‐saving measures; and
 highlight proven practice for implementing emergency energy‐saving programmes.
This paper will be valuable to government, academic, private‐sector and civil‐society stakeholders who inform, develop and implement electricity policy in general, and emergency energy‐saving programmes in particular.

To read the full report, click here.

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