Energy efficiency is one of the largest sources of available energy that every country possesses in abundance.
In simple terms, energy efficiency is the elimination of energy waste. It is the consumption of less energy to perform the same task. For many, it is viewed as an effective means to address environmental and economic challenges.
According to the IEA, we would have used 12% more energy worldwide in 2016 without the efficiency improvements achieved since 2000. This does not imply that less energy has been expended but rather that the usage has been more efficient.
Since 2000, IEA members have avoided UDS 50 billion in additional spending on energy imports due to energy efficiency. Households have avoided additional spending on their energy bills. Technology advances and policy action have enabled buildings to reduce their energy costs with more efficient heating and cooling systems, lighting and appliances.
Recognizing the importance of energy efficiency, the European Commission has committed to reducing its energy consumption by 20% by the year 2020.
At the IEC, the Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency (ACEE) coordinates activities related to energy efficiency. It has developed two guides, Guide 118 and Guide 119, which provide guidance to IEC Technical Committees on how to consider energy efficiency aspects when preparing IEC publications.
Efficiency in the transmission of electricity
Energy waste happens at many levels – from its generation and distribution to its final consumption.
Transmitting electricity over long distances is one example of energy losses that could be remedied. The high current carried in overhead lines and power cables results in increased temperatures, causing energy loss due to the Joule effect. As electrical current passes through a conductor, its temperature rises and this heat then bleeds away as lost energy. Other reasons for energy loss include the dielectric effect where energy is absorbed by the insulating material and magnetic loss where energy dissipates in metallic parts penetrated by magnetic fields.
The use of specially-designed overhead conductors can increase the current-carrying capacity and decrease the energy losses of overhead lines. IEC TC 7 publishes Standards which establish the guidelines and specifications for overhead electrical conductors, including calculation methods for bare conductors. IEC TC 20 publishes IEC 60228 which details the requirements of a wide range of conductors of insulated cables. IEC TC 55 prepares Standards for wires, including large insulated and covered wires for power transformer industries.
Most conductors have some degree of resistance which prevents electricity from flowing effortlessly. Superconductors are materials that offer no resistance to the flow of DC current at extremely low temperatures and minimal losses when subjected to AC currents. IEC TC 90 prepares International Standards relating to superconducting materials and devices, including the IEC 61788 series on superconductivity.
Because power loss in high voltage direct current (HVDC) systems is lower than for high voltage alternating current (HVAC) systems over long distances, HVDC is more suitable for extra long-distance transmissions above 3000 km. IEC TC 115 prepares International Standards for HVDC transmission for DC voltage above 100 kV and issues publications addressing design, technical requirements, construction and commissioning, reliability and operation. IEC TC 42 publishes Standards on high voltage and high current test techniques. Its work is also addressing the increased use of DC transmission.
A new IEC brochure provides further information about transmission and distribution systems and IEC work to help with energy efficiency.
See also: Smart grids to tackle energy challenges