Why energy sufficiency and not just plain efficiency?

Despite increasing energy efficiency, energy demand at a global level keeps growing. In Europe, efficiency has so far kept energy demand growth in check. But this is not enough: we need to reduce energy use significantly if we are to meet our climate change goals as well as fulfilling other societal goals. 

We are facing a number of challenges. Energy demand at a global level keeps growing despite energy efficiency (although energy demand would be much higher without efficiency). In Europe, we have managed to keep energy demand growth in check as demands for energy services have increased. But we must do more: we need to reduce energy use significantly if we are to ensure that everyone has fair access to the services that energy helps to provide while meeting other goals such as climate change mitigation, energy security and job creation.

Energy sufficiency offers us ways to go beyond energy efficiency and reduce our energy use. There are many energy services that are already fulfilled by some people in a more energy sufficient way (line drying of washing; smaller living quarters, shared equipment, bicycle use). Not all of these will suit everyone; not all will be possible for everyone. But more of us could do more of them. And the infrastructures around us could be better designed to enable this.

The changes that we make could not only make us more energy sufficient; they could also provide added benefits: healthier lifestyles; better jobs; cleaner urban air.

Energy sufficiency demands that we take into account our planetary limits; it also demands that we ensure fairness in our energy systems. We need not only to demand that policy makers recognise these issues but also to demonstrate that doing so is not as difficult as it seems and indeed can provide improvements to our wellbeing.