Overcoming the challenge of appliance energy efficiency in emerging countries


Electrical appliances account for a significant portion of the energy footprint of homes and companies. With the ongoing energy transition and just several months after the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, the energy efficiency of these devices is a crucial issue. For users, this means “doing better with less” or “more with the same” in order to limit their energy consumption.

While the challenge of energy efficient electrical appliances is a global one, it is especially important in emerging countries where an increasing part of the population has access to continuous energy. Today, the highest per capita energy intensity is found in Asia, the Middle East and, to a lesser extent, Africa, according to the World Energy Council (WEC). Per capita energy consumption in developing countries increases by an average of 3.4% annually. According to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute in 2008, the development of energy efficiency policies in these economies would make it possible to reduce this mean annual growth to 1.4%.

The critical issue of energy efficiency in emerging countries

The issue of appliance energy efficiency is crucial for developed countries engaged in the energy transition dynamic. As part of the “Climate and Energy Package” adopted in 2009, the European Union committed to reducing its energy consumption by 20% by 2020, which will involve widespread distribution of tools intended to improve appliance energy yield, as well as an ex-panded legislative framework and better communication with users.

The challenge is also substantial in emerging countries with the explosion of the middle class, with heavy use of electrical appliances and, logically, increasing energy consumption. In the 11 African countries studied by the Standard Bank in 2014*, the middle class is expected to triple by 2020 to reach 22 million people. Consequently, access to a host of new products, notably electrical devices, is expected to become widespread. Today, 2 billion people live in cities in emerging countries.

While networks and electrical appliances are spreading with increased urban growth, the limitations and the poor quality of power grids cause considerable loss. Furthermore, inequalities are developing between protected, well-covered residential areas and poorer areas where energy access remains limited.

In Southeast Asia, prospective studies clearly show the enormous challenge posed by mass access to energy for an ever-increasing segment of the population. According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) report “South East Asia Energy Outlook”, published in 2015, energy production is expected to triple in Southeast Asia by 2040.

The key role of appliance efficiency in resource-constrained settings

From transportation to the building sector, energy efficiency is a cross-cutting issue that touches upon many areas. It particularly concerns common appliances, used daily by households worldwide, from light bulbs to computers, and refrigerators to televisions. Compared to traditional solutions, energy efficient appliances are defined by a higher performance level with equivalent or even lower energy consumption. The advantages of such products are concrete and effect users daily, both in terms of comfort of use of the appliances and in terms of budget.

The energy efficiency issue is even greater in emerging countries, as they have to face recurring energy problems. The infographic made by the Rexel Foundation illustrates the importance of energy efficient appliances to address these problems. As emerging countries are not always able to produce enough energy to meet the needs of their population, energy efficient appliances could help limit household energy demand for a territory and limit peak consumption while the grid quality is not always optimal. On top of that, the use of energy efficient products rather than energy intensive appliances can be a significant source of medium- and long-term savings for households with relatively limited budgets.

A rapidly growing dynamic, towards universal access to energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is at the heart of a global strategy initiated by an increasing number of emerging countries in order to optimize their consumption by reducing energy loss and waste. This is accompanied by the creation of certifications which, though still only in their infancy in most emerging countries, could become an effective means of promoting the issue. However, certification and “energy labels” are still inadequate because of the central role of the second-hand market in these countries and the limited access to new equipment.

Public authorities have an important role to play in encouraging energy efficiency through concrete commitments. In India, where the use of fans is very widespread, the federal government committed to subsidizing manufacturers of energy eco-efficient fans. While it is still hard to measure the effects of these initiatives, this example shows a solid intention to turn to energy efficiency solutions. Despite several notable advances, the lack of regulatory norms and standards in countries in the southern hemisphere constitutes a global barrier to the development of a real culture of energy efficient appliances, particularly within communities.

The issue of energy efficiency often comes up against a lack of awareness in both users and professionals in the sector. It thus seems necessary to undertake a process of training and increasing awareness of energy players in emerging countries in order to address the whole chain, from distributor to user. While these processes clash with the obviously limited means of emerging countries, actors implicated in the development of energy efficiency tend to play a major role.

In areas with limited resources, better appliance energy efficiency is a means of facilitating communities’ access to energy. Implementing cost and regulatory measures to encourage the sale of energy efficient appliances or increasing awareness of the benefits of energy efficiency among installers and consumers are some of the prospects that can be explored for fueling this dynamic.

*Standard Bank study published in 2014 on the middle classes in 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Soudan, Soudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia)


Find out more:

The replay of the webinar "Energy efficiency for energy access: appliance efficiency in resource-constrained settings" on the Clean Energy Solutions Center website

Our summary of the webinar "Energy efficiency for energy access: appliance efficiency in resource-constrained settings"

Our infographics on appliance energy efficiency in resource-constrained settings

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