Chief Technology Editor
Oil & Gas Journal
BUENOS AIRES, Oct. 21 -- The 18th World Energy Congress of the World Energy Council was told Sunday that since 1990, energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product decreased by about 2%/year at the world level.
Speakers opening the meeting stressed the need to continue energy's role in improving quality of life and expanding freedom.
Freedom at the meeting was restricted, however. Security measures designed to prevent terrorism slowed opening day registrations and attendee movements, but most participants took them in stride.
Congress Chairman Jim Adam, outgoing Council Pres. Don Jordan, and President of Argentina Fernando de la Rùa opened the congress.
In addition, the council released results of a study that evaluated the effectiveness of energy-efficiency policies, use of energy-efficiency indicators for monitoring, and the link between the various measures and the influence of the policy context.
The findings of that study confirmed that since 1990, energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product decreased by about 2%/year at the world level.
Half of this reduction, however, came from a more rapid economic growth in regions with the lowest energy intensity, said the study. Actual progress in energy productivity was only 1%/year, less than between 1980 and 1990.
The study found that regulatory instruments are efficient and fairly cheap to implement because they do not provoke negative reactions. A first important conclusion, demonstrated by the introduction of thermal building standards in many countries, is that regulation should not result in an increase of the overall cost of an energy service to the consumer.
The main long-term drivers of energy efficiency policies, said the study, are global warming and the expected depletion of oil and gas resources. In developing countries, it said, energy efficiency is also a way to alleviate investment constraints on the supply side.
Adam said the council witnessed in recent years unprecedented change that has been good on the whole. "Energy is playing a leading role in increased freedom and peace," he said.
But, he said, more than 2 billion people remain in poverty and without access to commercial energy. "We know that both poverty and lack of access are intolerable and the two are inextricably linked," said Adam.
Jordan said that during the council's more than 80 years, its members had learned:
-- Available energy is not the same as sustainable energy.
-- Reliable energy requires sensible energy utilization.
-- Energy accessibility is critical to the world's stability and security of supply.
-- Market reform not only means free markets but also appropriate and innovative regulations.
"Identifying problems is only the start," he concluded. "Finding answers is sometimes harder. We're here to look for the answers."
Reviving the previous custom of the host country's chief of state addressing the congress, De la Rùa reminded the more than 3,000 registrants, "We cannot speak of energy without speaking of protecting the environment."