Progress within boundaries

Energy sufficiency goes beyond energy efficiency: it’s about having enough but not using too much. It’s about doing things differently; about living well, within the limits. 

Picture this: lines of washing strung between buildings in southern Italy.  Everyone can afford one, the washing on them is quickly dried and aired, and minimal energy is used.  That’s energy sufficiency. But obviously not applicable anywhere in the world.

And now picture this: a modern apartment block, designed so that it stays warm in winter and cool in summer with very little energy use; designed so that the numbers and sizes of rooms in each apartment can be changed as families grow and contract; designed with shared laundry rooms and guest rooms so that space and equipment is fully utilised.  That’s energy sufficiency too.

When we talk about energy sufficiency we are talking about a situation in which everyone has affordable access to the energy services they need, in which the energy services we want are equitably shared, and in which the environmental limits of the planet are respected.

Energy sufficiency goes beyond energy efficiency. It recognises the planetary boundaries within which we have to live, but at the same time supports progress towards greater wellbeing.  To move towards the energy sufficiency space – the safe space for humanity in terms of energy use – we need to think about both the quantity and the quality of energy services we demand. 

More is not always better, and we need to create the infrastructures and systems that will allow people to live good lives, within the planet’s environmental limits.  Can we do this?  Yes, we can. As the examples here show, energy sufficiency isn’t just doable, it is already being done.  These particular options may not work for you; they may not work in some locations.  But there will be other options that can work.  We need to understand what energy sufficiency is and apply our creative intelligence to developing solutions that deliver it.