March 21, 2022
Remote work one of the emergency measures that could cut energy use, says IEA
In the face of the emerging global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, practical actions by governments and citizens in advanced economies and beyond can achieve significant reductions in oil demand in a matter of months, reducing the risk of a major supply crunch, according to new analysis released by the International Energy Agency. These efforts, including the uptake of remote work, would reduce the pain being felt by consumers around the world, lessen the economic damage, shrink Russia’s hydrocarbon revenues, and help move oil demand towards a more sustainable pathway, the IEA claims.
If fully carried out in advanced economies, the measures recommended by the IEA’s new 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use would lower oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day within four months – equivalent to the oil demand of all the cars in China. This would significantly reduce potential strains at a time when a large amount of Russian supplies may no longer reach the market and the peak demand season of July and August is approaching. The measures would have an even greater effect if adopted in part or in full in emerging economies as well.
The new report also includes recommendations for decisions to be taken now by governments and citizens to transition from the short-term emergency actions included in the 10-Point Plan to sustained measures that would put countries’ oil demand into a structural decline consistent with a pathway towards net zero emissions by 2050.
Since the majority of oil demand comes from transport, the IEA’s 10-Point Plan focuses on how to use less oil getting people and goods from A to B, drawing on concrete measures that have already been put to use in a diverse range of countries and cities. The short-term actions it proposes include reducing the amount of oil consumed by cars through lower speed limits, working from home, occasional limits on car access to city centres, cheaper public transport, more carpooling and other initiatives – and greater use of high-speed rail and virtual meetings instead of air travel.
Advanced economies account for almost half of global oil demand. Many of them, including the largest energy consumers, are required as members of the IEA to have oil demand restraint plans ready as part of their emergency response measures.
Most of the proposed actions in the 10-Point Plan would require changes in the behaviour of consumers, including the adoption of remote work, supported by government measures. The IEA report notes that reducing oil use must not remain a temporary measure. Sustained reductions are important not only to improve countries’ energy security but also to tackle climate change and reduce air pollution. Governments have all the necessary tools at their disposal to put oil demand into decline in the coming years, and the report sets out the key ones to achieve this goal, including hastening the adoption of electric vehicles, raising fuel economy standards, boosting alternative fuel supplies, accelerating heat pump deployment, and producing and consuming plastic more sustainably.
- Reduce speed limits on highways by at least 10 km/hImpact*: Saves around 290 kb/d of oil use from cars, and an additional 140 kb/d from trucks
- Work from home up to three days a week where possibleImpact: One day a week of remote work saves around 170 kb/d; three days saves around 500 kb/d
- Car-free Sundays in cities: Every Sunday saves around 380 kb/d; one Sunday a month saves 95 kb/d
- Make the use of public transport cheaper and incentivise micromobility, walking and cyclingImpact: Saves around 330 kb/d
- Alternate private car access to roads in large citiesImpact: Saves around 210 kb/d
- Increase car sharing and adopt practices to reduce fuel useImpact: Saves around 470 kb/d
- Promote efficient driving for freight trucks and delivery of goodsImpact: Saves around 320 kb/d
- Using high-speed and night trains instead of planes where possibleImpact: Saves around 40 kb/d
- Avoid business air travel where alternative options existImpact: Saves around 260 kb/d
- Reinforce the adoption of electric and more efficient vehiclesImpact: Saves around 100 kb/d