Is this the best we can do? Let’s start chanting: We’re number 13!

July 22, 2014
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy has released its efficiency rankings of major global economies and the U.S. places 13 out of 16. Seriously, folks, the only major economies that are less energy efficient than us are Russia, Brazil and Mexico.

This is really lame. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy has released its efficiency rankings of major global economies and the U.S. places 13 out of 16. Seriously, folks, the only major economies that are less energy efficient than us are Russia, Brazil and Mexico. Is this the best we can do?

Germany comes in first (no surprise) in ACEEE’s new energy efficiency ranking of the world’s major economies, followed by Italy, the European Union as a whole, China, and France, according to the 2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard published in July by the nonprofit ACEEE. New to the rankings this year are four nations: India, Mexico, South Korea, and Spain.

Now in its second edition, the ACEEE report (available online at finds that, while some countries are still significantly outperforming others, there are substantial opportunities for improved energy efficiency in all economies analyzed, including the U.S., which ranked behind countries such as China, Canada, and India. There are dozens of international best practices that the U.S. could implement to improve its score.

The rankings are modeled after ACEEE’s long-standing approach to energy efficiency ranking of U.S. states, and include 16 of the world’s largest economies: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. These 16 economies represent over 81% of global gross domestic product and 71% of global energy consumption.

On a scale of 100 possible points in 31 categories, the nations were ranked as follows: 1) Germany; 2) Italy; 3) the European Union as a whole; (tied for 4) China; (tied for 4) France; (tied for 6) Japan; (tied for 6) United Kingdom; 8) Spain; 9) Canada; 10) Australia; 11) India; 12) South Korea; 13) United States; 14) Russia; 15) Brazil; and 16) Mexico.

The main point of all this is that our inefficiency makes us economically uncompetitive. The ACEEE report points out that while the U.S. has made some progress towards greater energy efficiency in recent years, the overall story is disappointing. The inefficiency in the U.S. economy means a waste of energy resources and money. Across most metrics analyzed in this International Scorecard, in the past decade the U.S. has made limited progress toward greater efficiency at the national level. The overall U.S. score of 42 is less than half of the possible points and is 23 points away from the top spot. Further, the U.S. falls behind Canada, Australia, India, and South Korea. These scores suggest that this list of countries may have an economic advantage over the U.S. because they use less energy to produce and transport so the same economic output costs them less.

The ACEEE report raises a critical question: How can the United States compete in a global economy if it continues to waste money and energy that other industrialized nations save and can reinvest? In its analysis, ACEEE outlines a number of recommendations for the U.S., highlighting four major opportunities for increased energy efficiency: passing a national energy savings target; strengthening national model building energy codes; supporting education and training in the industrial sectors; and prioritizing energy efficiency in transportation spending.

ACEEE divided the 31 metrics across four groupings. The first is those that track cross-cutting aspects of energy use at the national level, such as appliance efficiency standards. ACEEE also measured the three sectors primarily responsible for energy consumption in an economically developed country — buildings, industry, and transportation. The top-scoring countries in each grouping are: E.U., France, and Italy (three-way tie for national efforts); China (buildings); Germany (industry); and Italy (transportation).

“Germany is a prime example of a nation that has made energy efficiency a top priority,” said ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel. “The United States, long considered an innovative and competitive world leader, has progressed slowly and has made limited progress since our last report, even as Germany, Italy, China, and other nations surge ahead.”

Dr. Philipp Ackermann, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission, Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, said, “We see this as a validation that Germany’s measures are bearing fruit in its ongoing efforts to transition towards a low-carbon and energy-efficient economy. At the same time, we will continue to strive for further improvements.”

Let's hope the Germans keep it up because the best way to stick it to the Russians is for the Germans to buy less natural gas. Keep in mind that a lot of the Germans' progress has either been mandated or incentivized via tax law. The result has been many of the mind-blowing products seen every other year at the ISH Show in Frankfurt.

See if I say something amusing on Twitter @bobmader

About the Author

Robert Mader Blog | Editor in Chief

Bob Mader is the editor of CONTRACTOR magazine, Green Mechanical Contractor magazine, and Radiant Living magazine. He has been writing about plumbing, mechanical, green building and HVACR topics for more than 25 years.

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