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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Potentials and policy implications of energy and material efficiency improvement


There is a growing awareness of the serious problems associated with the provision of sufficient energy to meet human needs and to fuel economic growth world-wide. This has pointed to the need for energy and material efficiency, which would reduce air, water and thermal pollution, as well as waste production. Increasing energy and material efficiency also have the benefits of increased employment, improved balance of imports and exports, increased security of energy supply, and adopting environmentally advantageous energy supply. A large potential exists for energy savings through energy and material efficiency improvements. Technologies are not now, nor will they be, in the foreseeable future, the limiting factors with regard to continuing energy efficiency improvements. There are serious barriers to energy efficiency improvement, including unwillingness to invest, lack of available and accessible information, economic disencentives and organizational barriers. A wide range of policy instruments, as well as innovative approaches have been tried in some countries in order to achieve the desired energy efficiency approaches. These include: regulation and guidelines; economic instruments and incentives; voluntary agreements and actions, information, education and training; and research, development and demonstration. An area that requires particular attention is that of improved international co-operation to develop policy instruments and technologies to meet the needs of developing countries. Material efficiency has not received the attention that it deserves.Consequently, there is a dearth of data on the qualities and quantities for final consumption, thus, making it difficult to formulate policies. Available data, however, suggest that there is a large potential for improved use of many materials in industrialized countries.

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