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UK joins pledge to double motor system efficiencies by 2030

20 October, 2021

Ten countries, including the UK, have pledged to double the efficiency of their electric motor systems and those of three other technologies – air-conditioners, refrigerators and lighting – by 2030. The countries are members of an initiative called Sead (Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment) that promotes the production, purchasing and use of energy-efficient equipment worldwide. Of Sead’s 21 participating governments, fewer than half have so far committed themselves to doubling equipment efficiencies by 2030 – a target which Sead admits is “ambitious”.

According to Sead, the four technologies together account for more than 40% of global electricity demand. Doubling their efficiency in all 21 member countries would reduce global energy consumption by more than 5,000TWh – equivalent to removing more than 2,200 coal-fired power stations. These savings would avoid more than 2 Giga-tonnes of CO2 emissions per year by 2030, as well as delivering benefits in terms of air quality, health and jobs.

Turning specifically to motor-driven systems, Sead says they are “by far the largest source of end-use electricity consumption” and are responsible for more than 6,000 Mega-tonnes of CO2 emissions annually – similar to the emissions from more than one billion cars. Increasing the efficiency of these systems in the Sead member countries could save 160TWh a year by 2030, reducing CO2 emissions by 80Mt, and avoiding the need for more than 50 power plants. To date, it adds, more than 45 countries have introduced minimum efficiency standards or labelling programmes for electric motors.

According to a new document from the International Energy Agency (IEA), countries with advanced energy efficiency standards have cut their national energy-related CO2 emissions by 7-10%. In addition, average purchase prices for appliances in countries with long‑running efficiency standards have fallen steadily by around 2-3% per year. In the US, for example, such programmes delivered annual electricity cost savings of $40bn in 2020 – equivalent to an annual reduction in average energy bills for US homes of around $320.

In the run-up to the COP26 climate change conference in November, the UK (as COP26 president) and the IEA have launched the COP26 Product Efficiency Call to Action, aimed at boosting the Sead initiative. As well as committing to doubling the efficiencies of the four technologies by 2030, the Call to Action hopes to offer businesses and consumers products that are more efficient, affordable and cost-effective to own and operate. It also aims to stimulate innovation and provide businesses with more market and export opportunities.

In addition to the UK, the Call to Action has been endorsed by Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Denmark, Germany, Ghana, India, Korea and Sweden.

Millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions avoided per year between 2020 and 2030 by implementing minimum energy performance standards in different regions
Source: IEA / 4E TCP

Sead does not specify the benchmark from which it expects motor system efficiency levels to double by 2030. It seems unlikely that motors with twice the efficiency of today’s IE4 machines will emerge and be commercialised by then.

• The UK Government’s 368-page Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener document, issued in the run-up to COP26, makes only passing references to high-efficiency motors and drives – including one to the Sead Call to Action and another to the UK government’s £80m Driving the Electric Revolution initiative aimed at accelerating growth in the supply chain for power electronics, machines and drives.

The document does, however, reveal that the government intends to “explore regulatory measures to drive greater, earlier uptake of energy efficiency measures” in industry, supported by a wider package of policies to enable a smoother transition to a net-zero economy. The document has 13 pages devoted to achieving net-zero in industry, which focus mainly on carbon capture and storage initiatives aimed at cutting CO2 emissions by 6Mt a year by 2030 and 9Mt by 2035.

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