Energy efficiency projects across Europe have ensured more than one million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have been prevented from entering the atmosphere, explains Louise Evans, senior consultant at Ricardo.
Forty-one projects that received €58.5m of funding from the EU’s Intelligent Energy Europe II (IEE-II) and Horizon 2020 (H2020) programmes to focus on increasing energy efficiency in EU companies have led to €500m of investment within the organisations that took part and savings of 3.5TWh per year of primary energy.
Energy efficiency in industry has a key role to play in the EU meeting its 2030 and 2050 climate targets and fulfilling its objectives under the Paris Agreement.
Each of the 41 projects was evaluated individually, and the impacts (reliable and acceptable only) totalled across the portfolio.
The results show the impact of making energy efficiency changes within organisations and what a difference they can make to us all achieving our common goal of reduced emissions.
If the savings from these types of projects, averaging 4.5% of total energy use, are applied across the whole of the EU industrial sector this would represent a third of the 15% targeted by 2030 by the New Industrial Strategy.
Together the projects delivered more than 3,500 energy efficiency audits, trained more than 10,000 people and reached more than 4.5 million people with energy efficiency information relevant to their areas of expertise.
The projects often tackled sectors where there was a lack of tailored energy efficiency information and so it was necessary to establish baselines of typical energy use, benchmarks, best practice and tools to identify improvement opportunities specific to the sector targeted.
The 41 projects worked with businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to look at investing in cost-effective energy efficiency measures in the industry and services sector.
Although a wide range of cost-effective energy-saving measures are available, many relevant market stakeholders have yet to sufficiently prioritise this area and take-up remains low.
SMEs in particular face significant barriers in implementing such measures and these projects often specifically addressed the challenges faced by SMEs, and sectors dominated by SMEs, seeking to speed up the market uptake of low-carbon technologies and services.
Energy efficiency measures can range from company education and empowerment to use equipment and the building more efficiently, replacement of standard equipment such as lights and air conditioning with more energy efficiency models, through to optimisation and update of more complex systems such as boilers, pumps and production lines.
The barriers holding companies back from taking action in this space are initially often a lack of information and knowledge. Available information on energy efficiency in industry will often be challenging for companies to interpret and to transpose to their own sector and company context.
A lack of financing can then be a significant barrier for companies, especially given the longer payback time for significant equipment upgrades.
Currently, there are no government regulations for mandatory energy audits for SMEs, as there are for larger companies with the Energy Efficiency Directive, Article 8, and so this significant driver is absent. A further barrier is behavioural, hindering companies from investing in becoming more sustainable.
Such barriers may be, for example, a lack of commitment or resource from senior levels, a lack of interest, a reluctance to disrupt current operations; essentially energy efficiency’s strategic value is not recognised.
These 41 projects specifically addressed the information challenges, the financing challenges and sought ways to create a proactive energy culture within a company.
Many projects found that one of the key drivers to build this energy culture was to develop knowledge and appreciation for energy efficiency within companies across a range of seniority levels, including decision-makers.
It was identified by projects that also focusing on the non-energy benefits of energy efficiency improvements, such as increased employee engagement, reduced maintenance costs, reduced waste costs, could heavily reduce the payback period, potentially halving it in many instances.
Companies that did take action said that they did so for a number of reasons, including ‘it was the right thing to do’, the creation of a green USP which brought commercial benefits, recognition of the non-energy benefits, and the original point that it delivers energy, greenhouse gas and financial savings and ensures that a company remains competitive in a global market place.
Projects highlighted that to achieve successful implementation someone within a company must want to be responsible for taking the energy efficiency strategy forwards. Further, that SMEs may benefit considerably from more support over a longer period of time to facilitate actual implementation of measures, including support with design and procurement steps.
Recognising these drivers and incorporating the full range of them into future projects and policy developments may yield improved outcomes, and higher energy savings in the future.
This assessment was carried out by Ricardo PLC, a global engineering, environmental and strategic consultancy for CINEA, the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency. For the full report please see here.
Photo credit – Thomas Millot