The 2016 Energy Efficiency (EE) Global Forum continued on Thursday in Washington, D.C., with more powerful messages about the importance of energy policies.

Panelists talk energy-efficiency policy at the EE Global Forum in Washington, D.C.
Panelists talk energy-efficiency policy at the EE Global Forum in Washington, D.C.

Fatih Biral, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, said efficiency is now the top priority for his trans-national organization. (Its original mission when it launched in 1974 was to help countries respond to disruptions in oil supplies.)

“Our goal is to make it a No. 1 priority for governments as well,” he said, noting that building codes, energy standards and other government actions play a growing role in energy efficiency. “In 2005, only 14 percent of energy consumed globally was subject to energy-efficiency standards. Today, it’s nearly 30 percent.”

But over the next 25 years, Biral said that will only rise to about 40 percent. While more countries and business sectors are introducing effective policies and standards, he said governments must work harder. The biggest threat to progress, Biral said, is continuing low prices for fossil fuels. Along with that, he said it’s vital to educate emerging economies about effective energy policies.

“It will require more innovation, investment and policy ambition,” he said. “Efficiency is a public-good issue.”

Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, agreed, noting that governments should think of improvements in energy productivity as infrastructure investments. To that end, Kenber announced the EP100 campaign on Wednesday at the EE Global Forum. EP100 is an effort to encourage influential businesses around the world to double their energy productivity, a measure of economic output per energy use.

Other speakers on Thursday echoed Biral and Kenber’s sentiments.

Rachel Kyte, special representative of the U.N. Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All, would like to see a greater sense of urgency in a world threatened by climate change.

“There has been extraordinary innovation in energy efficiency in the past decade, but we don’t have time to prevaricate,” she said. “The challenge for us will be to look up and out to see how energy efficiency can become the norm.”

She urged stronger construction standards, especially in developing countries.

“The fact that cities are growing across Africa and Asia means that setting standards and driving it through public buildings is vital,” she said.

John Galyen of the Danfoss Group echoed that point by emphasizing the importance of energy-efficient upgrades to existing buildings. He also said technologies to double energy productivity already exist; they’re just not in wide enough use.

“It is time for us to talk the talk and walk the talk,” Galyen said.

Solutions Showcase Winning Videos Highlight Efficiency Efforts

The EE Global Forum didn’t have a trade show, but there was an interactive video contest called the Solutions Showcase that gave companies and organizations a chance to promote what they’re doing to improve energy efficiency. Attendees voted on the videos, and the winners were announced on Thursday. They are: