The World’s Most Energy-Efficient Countries

Guess what? The U.S. doesn’t even rank in the top 10, and overall it appears the world could save tons of energy by doing more with less.

There’s a cheap, easy way to have more energy, and it doesn’t involve building another power station or wind farm. Using less energy to do the same amount of work–i.e. energy efficiency–remains a “massively underutilized energy resource,” according to a new report.


The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy analyzed 16 major economies in 16 categories related to both public policy and performance. Examples of policy include things like fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks and power efficiency standards for household appliances. Performance includes how far vehicles actually go per gallon, and the energy consumed to heat a square foot of building. The report covers three areas: buildings, industry, and transport.

From a maximum possible 100 points, Germany comes in at the top with 65, followed by Italy (64 points) and the European Union as a whole (63 points). China comes top for the efficiency of its buildings, Germany for industry, Italy for its transportation. And the U.S.? It is 13th place overall (out of 16 countries, remember), with 42 points, behind China, Canada, and India, but ahead of Russia, Brazil, and Mexico, which fill the last three places. In other words, for a leading industrial nation, the U.S. isn’t doing particularly well.

“The inefficiency in the U.S. economy means a tremendous waste of energy resources and money,” the report says. “These scores suggest [other] countries may have an economic advantage over the United States because using less energy to produce and transport the same economic output costs them less. Their efforts to improve efficiency likely make their economies more nimble and resilient.”

The U.S. does best in the buildings category, where it finishes eighth. It does worst for transportation, which it’s 15th.

“The United States has made some progress toward greater energy efficiency in recent years, particularly in areas such as building codes, appliance standards, voluntary partnerships between government and industry, and, recently, fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles and heavy-duty trucks,” the report adds. But, overall, its “story is disappointing” and has improved little since the last ACEEE International Scorecard in 2012.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.