A recent scientific study found that efficient end-use technologies are most likely to provide higher returns – and yet, when it comes to funding, they tend to get ignored.
Currently, innovation efforts dwell on developing energy supply technologies, such as new power stations, instead of improving the manner by which energy is used. According to a study from the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, creating more energy-efficient cars, buildings and household appliances are as effective, if not more so.
“About two-thirds of all public innovation efforts are directed toward energy supply technologies. It is vital that innovations in renewable energy supply continue, but the imbalance in spending needs to be redressed urgently…” said Dr. Charlie Wilson, researcher at the Tyndall Center and head of the study.
Currently, energy supply technologies occupy a bigger share in energy system investments and capacity, while engaging higher levels of private sector activity. They also present a higher potential of cost reductions and deliver higher social returns and higher emissions reduction prospects. However, the study showed an excessively high concentration of effort invested in innovation in these technologies, “right across the energy research and development sector.”
“Efficiency gets short shrift in both public energy research and development, and in private market investments alike,” said Prof. Arnulf Grubler, study co-author from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Yale University.
“In contrast, improvements in technologies like domestic appliances and more energy-efficient transport are underrepresented given their potential” he said.
Dr. Wilson argued that “small-scale innovations” that advance end use efficiency are often overlooked, “because they don’t have the glamour of solar panels and wind turbines, and they don’t benefit from the well-established institutions, powerful market interests, and political influence that support supply technologies such as fossil fuels, nuclear, and wind and solar power.”