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Energy Efficiency: How 16 Major Economies Stack Up

Germany leads the world in energy efficiency, followed by Italy, the European Union, China and France, according to a new ranking of the world's 16 largest economies by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

The United States was near the bottom, placing 13th.

Using less power through energy efficiency is being counted on to provide more than half of the reduction in carbon emissions that's required to avoid a catastrophic global temperature increase.

Here's how the nation's biggest economies stack up on efficiency efforts.

Image: Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel/Credit: World Economic Forum, flickr

On their overall performance:

This year's scorecard showed that every country reviewed—including No. 1 Germany—fell well short of earning all 100 of the possible points. The average score was 50.

That's sobering news since the economies on the scorecard represent 71 percent of global energy consumption.

The points were awarded in four categories: National efforts, buildings, industry, and transportation. ACEEE said some key countries have stalled or regressed since the group's previous international ranking in 2012.

Image: President Obama talks about the Energy Innovation Hub for Energy Efficient Buildings at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, a federally-funded research initiative led by Penn State. Credit: Penn State

On national efforts:

In the "national efforts" category, the group awarded points based on economy-wide energy efficiency measurements, water and energy efficiency policies, and government leadership and commitments.

The scoring also measured reductions in an economy's energy intensity. That's calculated by totaling the amount of energy consumed per year, and dividing that by the total value of the goods and services produced (gross domestic product, or GDP).

Image: The steps of Congress on March 2011/Credit: Congressman John Boehner, flickr

On national efforts:

The European Union, France and Italy topped the national efforts list in a three-way tie. Each earned 19 points out of a possible 25.

The report cited the EU's wide range of energy efficiency policies. It credited Japan with having the most efficient production of electricity.

The United States earned only 11 of the possible 25 points. It lacks national energy and water efficiency goals, and has cut its energy intensity by only 20% between 2000 and 2011 (France has dropped 50%).

Image: Mount Komekura Photovoltaic power plant/Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On industry:

Countries won points in this category for energy-savings agreements with manufacturers, mandatory energy audits and investment in energy efficiency research and development for industrial plants.

Countries also got credit for lowering their energy intensity in agriculture and at industrial plants. The ACEEE adjusted the scores to reflect the different types of industries that dominate the countries under review.

Image: A Hyundai car assembly line.
Credit: Taneli Rajala, Wikipedia

On industry:

Germany topped this ranking, winning 18 of 25 points. Its score was boosted by low industrial energy intensity, and by offering incentives and subsidies for energy-saving investments.

Italy had the highest use of technology that captures manufacturing heat for use as power.

The United States ranked 13th.

Image: German houses fitted with solar panels.
Credit: Kahunapule M. Johnson, flickr

On buildings:

Countries got credit in this category for having energy-saving building codes (insulation, lighting, heating,design, programs requiring disclosure of building energy use, and efficiency standards for appliances and equipment (along with energy-use labeling).

This category also measured the energy intensity of homes and commercial buildings--calculated as energy use per square foot.

Image: Cityscape of New York City/Credit: Aurelien Guichard, flickr

On buildings:

China led the pack in this category, earning 19 points out of 25. It won praise for instituting energy-saving building codes during its rapid build-out.

Federal laws in China require new buildings to be up to 65 percent more efficient than 1980s-era buildings.

Germany won points for progressive and comprehensive energy efficiency policies and building codes.

Image: An urban China landscape.
Credit: Chris, flickr

On transportation:

Countries in this category earned points based on the fuel efficiency of the vehicle fleet, total vehicle miles traveled per person in a year, investment in and use of public transit, and the energy intensity of freight transport, among other things.

Image: In San Francisco, a Carshare hybrid vehicle charges/Credit: felixkramer, flickr

On transportation:

The scores were least impressive in this category. Every economy on the list received no points for at least one metric.

The highest-rated country, Italy, landed only 17 of 25 possible points. It's strengths were fuel efficiency performance and standards for cars.

The United States only got 8 points, and it received no points at all in half of the metrics. The nation placed 15th, just ahead of last-place Australia.

Image: An electric car in Italy
Credit: Philip Sheldrake, flickr