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Durable Goods Drive Two-Thirds of Global Households' Final Energy Footprints

Narasimha Rao and 4 other contributors

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    Abstract

    Sustainability endorses high quality, long-lasting goods. Durable goods, however, often require substantial amounts of energy during their production and use-phase and indirectly through complementary products and services. We quantify the global household's final energy footprints (EFs) of durable goods and the complementary goods needed to operate, service and maintain durables. We calculate the EFs of 200 goods across 44 individual countries and 5 world regions for the period of 1995-2011. In 2011, we find 68% of the total global household's EF (218 EJ) is durable-related broken down as follows: 10% is due to the production of durables per se, 7% is embodied in goods complementary to durables (consumables and services) and 51% is operational energy. At the product level, the highest durable-related EFs are: transport goods (148-648 MJ/cap), housing goods (40-811 MJ/cap), electric appliances (34-181 MJ/cap), and "gas stoves and furnaces" (40-100 MJ/cap). Between 1995 and 2011, the global household EF increased by 28% (48 EJ), of which 72% was added by durable-related energy. Globally, a 10% income growth corresponded to an increase in EF by 9% in durables, 11% in complementary consumables and 13% in complementary services-with even higher elasticities in the emerging economies. The average EF of the emerging economies (35 GJ/cap) is 2.5 times lower than in advanced economies (86 GJ/cap). Efficiency gains were detected in 47 out of 49 regions, but only 16 achieved net energy reductions. The large share of durable-related EF across regions (40-88%) confirms the dominance of durables in driving EFs, but the diversity of patterns suggests that policy and social factors influence durable-dependency. Demand-side solutions targeting ownership and inter-linkages between durables and complements are key to reduce global energy demand.