World Economic Forum Releases 2013 Energy System Rankings

The World Economic Forum just released their rankings for this year’s Energy Architecture Performance Index (EAPI). The report ranks the energy systems of 124 countries from the perspective of Economic Growth and Development, Environmental Sustainability, and Energy Access and Security. They refer to these three perspectives as the “energy triangle."

Economic growth is important in addressing poverty, hunger, population growth and political stability. Environmental sustainability is key in protecting the planet. Energy access relates to the fact that over one billion people on the planet do not have reliable access to electricity.

The weightings of these three factors were not shown, and certainly one might have a different take on their relative importance. Also subject to interpretation is the way each of the category scores are calculated. For example, France received the highest rating for environmental sustainability. Yet France receives 40% of its electricity from nuclear power. Clearly, the authors of this report feel that nuclear power is environmentally sustainable due to its low carbon emissions, though some people might not agree with that assessment. As a point of reference, this listing of top countries for renewables, (which counts the EU as one entity), does not align particularly well with the report’s environmental sustainability rankings.

That being said, according to the report, “the purpose of the Index is to help countries position themselves for the widespread transition that is expected in global, regional and national energy systems.”

As different countries negotiate through their own energy challenges, they face unavoidable trade-offs between the three facets of the triangle. For example, in emerging economies like China (which ranked 85th), an emphasis on economic growth and development has come at the expense of environmental sustainability which received a score of 0.35. This has also been true in energy exporting countries like Nigeria, which ranked 93rd getting dinged for both economic growth (0.38) and energy access (0.33).

The rankings illustrate the varied pathways by which economies have achieved their current balance between these three factors. In the top ten countries, Norway, which scored #1 overall with a score of 0.75, combined its top score of 0.96 in Energy Access and Security, with a  5th place score of 0.69 in Economic Growth and Development, and a 19th place score of  0.60 in Environmental Sustainability. Second place New Zealand, on the other hand, which trailed close behind with a total score of 0.73, received its score through  a combination of a 18th place 0.63 in Economic Growth and Development, a 7th place rating of 0.7 in Environmental Sustainability, and a 5th place score of 0.85 in Energy Access and Security.

The top ten with their respective rankings are shown below:

                        EAPI                Growth Sustainability     Access

                        Score   Rank    Score   Rank    Score   Rank    Score   Rank

Norway            0.75     1          0.69     5          0.60     21        0.96     1

New Zealand    0.73     2          0.63     18        0.70     7          0.85     5

France              0.72     3          0.63     19        0.73     1          0.81     18

Sweden            0.72     4          0.59     30        0.73     2          0.85     6

Switzerland       0.72    5          0.73     3          0.59     23        0.82     14

Denmark          0.71      6          0.71     4          0.54     39        0.88     3

Colombia         0.70      7          0.74     2          0.50     51        0.84     7

Spain                0.67     8          0.69     6          0.55     38        0.78     30

Costa Rica       0.67      9          0.68     7          0.56     31        0.77     35

Latvia               0.66     10        0.58     35        0.65     12        0.77     36

The United Kingdom, Canada, Romania and Austria were all tied with Latvia overall, so they should be considered in the top ten as well.

Looking across the entire group, only four of the top ten countries in the Environmental Sustainability category—France, Sweden, New Zealand and Latvia—made the top ten overall. Other countries receiving high marks for Sustainability were: Iceland, Zambia, Mozambique, Ethiopia and the Slovak Republic. Tajikistan, Togo and Tanzania were all tied with Latvia. However, the low scores these countries received in Economic Development—and, in the case of Ethiopia, Zambia and Mozambique, in Energy Security and Access—resulted in very low overall scores.

Countries receiving high marks in Economic Growth and Development tended to fare better. Six of the top scorers in that category made the overall top ten. However, Peru, which received the top score of 0.78 in that category, did not make the overall top ten, due to its low 0.46 rating in Environmental Sustainability which led to an overall  #18 ranking with a score of 0.65 (tied with Germany, Portugal and Ireland).

Finally, among top scorers in the Energy Access and Security category, only Australia, Czech Republic and the United States did not make the top ten overall due to their relatively low scores in environmental sustainability.

The US, which scored 37th overall received scores of 0.57, 0.34, and 0.84 in Economic Growth, Environmental Sustainability and Energy Access, respectively.

The lowest scores overall and in each of the three categories went to Yemen (0.32), Bahrain (0.18/Growth), Oman (0.12/Sustainability) and Tanzania (0.17/Access)

The fact that the highest scores out of a possible 1.0 were 0.75 overall (Norway), 0.78 for Economic Growth (Peru), 0.73 for Environmental Sustainability (France), and 0.96 for Energy Access (Norway), gives some indication of where improvements are needed.