Unite to make household appliances energy efficient for five billion people by 2030: Steve Kukoda, ICA

16 March 2016

Steve Kukoda, Vice President of the International Copper Association (ICA), talks about the growing demand for household appliances globally and identifies the need for urgent action to improve energy efficiency in six key product areas. The ICA works to grow markets for copper with governments, intergovernmental organizations, the UN and foundations among others, and in 2013, formed ‘United For Efficiency' with partners such as UNEP to help drive emissions reductions. This article is part of The Climate Group’s Home2025 project

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts electricity consumption in the non-OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) will more than double by 2030, a growth rate more than four-times that of the OECD countries.

This trend is driven by a growing global middle class, which is predicted to grow from about two billion people in 2010 to five billion by 2030.


Image by ICA

With this growth comes projected increases in the purchase of home appliances, with non-OECD far outpacing the developed world. The demand for residential refrigerators and air conditioners for example, will expand in developing world countries at a rate more than triple the rate in the OECD.


Image by ICA

But while the increasing buying power of billions of people is a positive change, there are potentially serious challenges ahead, as the vast majority of non-OECD countries do not have efficient standards for appliances and other high energy consuming products. Where there are standards in place, they are often outdated and not aligned with current technologies. There is a very real threat that inefficient products will continue to be the norm in these countries while demand soars.

This will have big impacts because inefficient products:

  • Emit far greater amounts of CO2 versus efficient products.
  • Consume more electricity, resulting in unnecessarily high utility bills.
  • Burden grids that are already overstressed in many countries.
  • Increase the use of fossil fuels due to unnecessarily high power generation capacity.

The time for action is now. With or without intervention, these markets will grow; we can consider these products already bought and sold.

And in an effort to address this pressing issue, in 2014 United For Efficiency (U4E) was formed.


U4E was founded by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the UN Development Program (UNDP), CLASP, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the International Copper Association (ICA).

The partnership aims to accelerate market transformations toward energy-efficient appliances and equipment by 2030 to:

  • Reduce global electricity consumption by 10%, equivalent to 600 large power plants.
  • Reduce CO2 by 1.25 giga-tons, equivalent to the emissions of a half-billion passenger vehicles.
  • Save US$350 billion on electricity bills, increasing the purchasing power and profitability of businesses.
  • Avoid investments in new power generation of US$500 billion.

These goals can be achieved through market transformations based on minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) and associated policy frameworks in six product categories:

  • Refrigerators
  • Air Conditioners
  • Lighting
  • Information Technology
  • Distribution Transformers
  • Motors

By focusing on these products, U4E achieves scale; these six product categories will account for a majority of electricity consumption in 2030.


Image by ICA

U4E aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL) initiative. SE4ALL has developed an “energy efficiency accelerator platform” to help realize its goal of doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. U4E is the official appliances “accelerator” under this platform.

Furthermore, the methodologies employed by U4E are proven to work, and the founding partners bring the collective knowledge, experience, and resources to meet its goals. Most notably, the ongoing UNEP-led en.lighten program provides U4E with solid evidence that these types of market transformations are possible.

Indeed en.lighten has already worked with more than 60 countries and helped more than one billion people to transition to efficient lighting products. ICA, another partner in U4E, has helped nearly 40 countries put in place MEPS for motors.


U4E has advanced rapidly in a short period of time. Generous start-up funding was provided by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and several countries have GEF-approved projects for U4E implementation. More than 20 partners have joined the founders of U4E, including a number of private sector companies.

And this rapid development is crucial. Climate change will continue to be mankind’s most dire issue in the coming years and decades. Without significant impacts in both mitigation and adaptation, there is a very real danger we will fall short of limiting the effects of manmade climate change.

But the IEA predicts energy efficiency can account for 50% of the effort to limit climate change to 2oC. Appliance efficiency is critical to this effort, and significant impacts can be achieved with existing technologies and methodologies

Energy efficiency is truly a win-win proposition. It saves money while reducing emissions, creates economic development, helps to stabilize grids and other power sources, and reduces the need for investments in new power generation.

And while energy efficiency is often referred to as “low-hanging fruit”, the reality is that energy efficiency’s fruits are large, overripe and sitting on the floor.

All that needs to be done is to pick it up.

This is part of The Climate Group's project Home2025. For information please contact us at home2025@theclimategroup.org

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