Whereas electrochemical oxidation is noted for its ability to degrade bio-refractory organics, it has also been incorrectly criticized for excessive energy consumption. The present paper rectifies this misunderstanding by demonstrating that the energy actually consumed in the degradation process is much less than that wasted in the side reaction of oxygen evolution. To minimize the side reaction, the possible highest instantaneous current efficiency (PHICE) for electrochemical oxidation of phenol at Boron-doped Diamond (BDD), Ti/SnO2-Sb/PbO2 (PbO2), and Ti/SnO2-Sb (SnO2) anodes has been investigated systematically, and found to reach almost 100% at the BDD anode compared with 23% at the PbO2 anode and 9% at the SnO2 anode. The significant discrepancy between PHICE values at the various anodes is interpreted in terms of different existing forms of hydroxyl radicals. For each anode system, the PHICEs are maintained experimentally using a computer-controlled exponential decay current mode throughout the electrolysis process. For applications, the minimized energy consumption is predicted by response surface methodology, and demonstrated for the BDD anode system. Consequently, almost 100% current efficiency is achieved (for a relatively meagre energy consumption of 17.2 kWh kgCOD-1) along with excellent COD degradation efficiency by optimizing the initial current density, flow rate, electrolysis time, and exponential decay constant. Compared with galvanostatic conditions, over 70% of the energy is saved in the present study, thus demonstrating the great potential of electrochemical oxidation for practical applications.