Energy Efficiency vs Energy Access

This article was written by Oyindamola Sofoluwe

As the world is working towards promoting the sustainability of the green economy through the supply and use of energy for the greatest benefit of mankind, different topics and discussions are ongoing about the green economy, renewable energy, energy access, and energy efficiency. There are many cases of insufficient supply of energy around the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where more than half of the population lives without access to clean energy. Currently, there are ongoing discussions on the relevance of energy access and energy efficiency, as well as to what level which one is important. In this article, we will cover the meaning, importance and correlation of both Energy Access and Energy Efficiency using Nigeria as our case study  

What does Energy Access and Efficiency mean?

Energy Access means the provision of reliable and quality energy supply to improve the state of living of individuals which in turn boosts productivity and economic activities. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), a  household’s initial access to enough electricity to power a basic bundle of energy services like lightbulbs, electricity sockets for phone charging, a radio, and possibly a fan or television – with the degree of service capable of rising over time is referred to as electricity access.

Energy Efficiency on the other hand aims at reducing the amount of energy necessary to supply products and services while simultaneously reducing the consequences of pollution on the environment. As described by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), “it means using less energy to perform the same task – that is, eliminating energy waste”.  Energy efficiency, at its most basic level, is a means of minimising energy consumption by using less energy to produce the same amount of useful output.

For a country like Nigeria, the struggle is in first providing energy access opportunities to her citizens. With 85 million Nigerians not having access to grid electricity, Nigeria is seen as the country with the largest energy access deficit in the world1. Unarguably, modern energy services are very important to human living and to promote economic growth. Citizens and companies face considerable challenges due to a lack of reliable power; this has resulted in an annual economic loss estimated at $26.2 billion (₦10.1 trillion) which is equivalent to about 2 per cent of GDP according to a press release from the World Bank. With the state of energy access deficit in the country, it is difficult to determine if the country is even energy-efficient.

It is imperative to be aware that irrespective of the amount of energy supplied in the country, how that energy is used can reveal whether or not there is energy efficiency at work.

While energy access still has a wide gap to be filled in the country, especially in rural communities with little or no access to energy supply, little steps can be taken to ensure that energy available is efficiently utilised.  

Energy is wasted in Nigeria because households, public and private offices, and companies utlise more energy than is required to meet their needs. One of the reasons is that they employ archaic and inefficient equipment and manufacturing technology to carry out daily business activities. Although the demand for energy exceeds the supply, if energy efficiency is employed, there would be increased productivity, reduction of energy costs, the safety of lives and properties and also support for a clean environment. For example, small steps like choosing LED light bulbs over incandescent bulbs, as well as using energy-saving appliances (energy efficient ceiling fans, washing machines and even refrigerators) over the traditional appliances will add up to being energy efficient in our various homes. 

In different economies of the world today, energy efficiency has become the key driver of sustainable development. Prioritizing energy efficiency has a number of benefits, including optimal use of natural resources, lower levels of air pollution, and reduced consumer spending on energy-related expenses. This will in turn help to increase energy access to other communities as energy saved in one part of the country can be supplied to other parts. 

In conclusion, energy efficiency and energy access work hand in hand as they help to redefine and speed up global efforts to provide modern energy services to those who need them most – developing economies. So, while energy efficiency is driving improved energy access outcomes, energy access is driving improved energy efficiency outcomes at the same time. That is, with energy efficiency there can be increased energy access. The energy gotten from the increased access can then now be used in an efficient manner.

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