|Overview of topic||Publication||Report|
Report presented by Rob Williams, Koen Rademaekers and Marie-Jose Zondag
Energy efficiency means using a smaller amount of energy to achieve the same output. This output can be the provision of heat, light, cooling, transport or a product or service.
Improving energy efficiency has a number of benefits. As the majority of energy used produces greenhouse gases, which lead to climate change, reducing the amount of energy used is a sound option. Reducing energy use also reduces energy bills for consumers and businesses and reduces the amount of energy which has to be imported into Europe. Investing in energy efficiency can also generate employment and improve the quality of life for many citizens, e.g. by having housing that is easier and cheaper to heat. This combination of benefits has led the European Commission to set a target for a 20% improvement in energy efficiency by 2020.
Despite these attractive benefits, there are a number of barriers that are currently limiting the uptake of energy efficiency. These can be summarised as follows:
Financial barriers: Difficulty in accessing the capital required to make energy efficiency investments. This has worsened during the current economic crisis. Some investors and individuals are unwilling to make investments that do not show a rapid payback and energy efficiency investments compete with many alternative uses of capital. Many feel that energy prices do not fully reflect the costs.
Institutional and administrative barriers: Energy efficiency is arguably not pursued with the political will that its benefits suggest it deserves. This is made worse by the number of stakeholders that often need to be convinced in order for energy efficient investment options to be selected and the frequent separation of expenditure and benefit, i.e, the different incentives between those that have to finance these investments and those that benefit from them.
Information and awareness barriers: Many of the groups and individuals with the ability to make energy efficiency investments and/or behaviour choices are not aware of the options available. This lack of awareness can be linked to a lack of confidence in new technologies and approaches which often relates to a lack of sufficient, accessible, accurate and trusted information. The lack of awareness is also an issue for key intermediaries such as finance providers and technical and policy officers in the public and private sectors.
There is a long history of international and national policies and programmes designed to help address these barriers. The European Commission has set high-level goals for improvements in energy efficiency and has also set mandatory standards for the energy performance of buildings and a number of specific products. There are a number of programmes to help finance and promote energy efficiency. The Structural and Cohesion funds, as well as specific economic crisis related funds can be used to support investments in energy efficiency, particularly in housing. There are funds to support the research, development and demonstration of energy efficiency technologies and policies, such as the Framework Programme and its successor, the Horizon 2020 programme. There are other programmes which are more focused on addressing the non-technical barriers to energy efficiency, such as lack of awareness, policy design and the unavailability of finance. Examples of these programmes are the Intelligent Energy Europe Programme and parts of the LIFE+ programme.
We have analysed a number of INTERREG IVC projects (1) that have highly relevant lessons to teach policymakers, local authorities, and citizens about energy efficiency. These lessons include ways on how to implement existing policies and how to overcome the barriers and achieve real improvements in energy efficiency. Some of the key lessons are:
Community involvement is an effective way of bringing change. The IMEA project has made use of promoting local role models, involving local groups, and providing 1:1 follow-up support with individuals who have received energy efficiency advice. This helps address the lack of information and motivation barriers.
Involving a diverse range of players promotes credibility and uptake – but it requires work on creating a ‘common language’. Involving the local supply side of energy efficiency, e.g. builders in the IMEA project, is an effective way of helping to deliver change. This approach also brings credibility and dynamism to public sector led schemes. Including a wide range of players helps to promote action. This can be effectively done via a bottom-up approach, such as the citizen involvement in the Energy labs in the RENERGY project and the local authority involvement in the PLUS project. This helps create a common language between the players, so all of them are clear on what the objectives are and why and how their motivations fit in.
Awareness raising and behaviour change needs to be practical, performed at the local level and target group specific. A diversity of delivery methods helps. For example, the LoCaRe project uses schools as a way of cascading information on energy efficiency through a local community, and a number of projects use targeted communication tools (videos, web based information etc.) to appeal to specific audiences (e.g. EnercitEE, IMAGINE).
Awareness among politicians and officers in regional and local public authorities often needs improving – the projects have reported that they are often willing and interested if the arguments are presented appropriately and practical tools are developed. The needs of regional and local authority policy officers in terms of designing and implementing policies to improve energy efficiency are recognised and addressed in the REGREEN and the IMAGINE projects. This helps address the information barrier.
Assessing transferability is key. Projects need to evaluate transferability of the techniques and approaches they are examining and should include or develop guidance on how to tailor these techniques and approaches to local needs, e.g. reflecting the timescale required (as is the case of the IMAGINE project plans) but also reflecting technical differences (as shown in the PLUS project).
Some sectors and applications are more transferable than others – energy use in public buildings appears to offer some good transferability. The SERPENTE project focuses on this issue.
Technology is usually not the problem – applying it in practice is the real issue. Process related approaches are often more easy to transfer than technical solutions. It is apparent that the majority of the projects are concerned with non-technological issues, such as awareness and finance. The projects reflect this by, for example, focusing on the ways in which plans can be turned into action (IMEA), the community involvement promoted by the EnercitEE and LoCaRe projects and the development of local authority toolkits for developing and testing policies in IMAGINE and RE-GREEN.
Transferability is affected by the nature of the recipient (their progress and if they have a regional energy policy). The CO2FREE project reported that the more advanced regions in terms of energy efficiency uptake tended to be less receptive to receiving new ideas. They also pointed out the importance of having a local baseline and strategy on energy efficiency to make a partner region more likely to recognise what examples of good practice are relevant to it and better able and more likely to take them up.
Not everything can be readily transferred. It should also be recognised that some approaches will have important limitations on their transferability, for example, GreenITNet pointed out that local data openness polices can limit the use of traffic and travel data.
Light pilot actions are effective – but they must be resourced and the project partners must be ‘willing to fail’. The benefits of testing technologies in place, even if only on a very small scale, was mentioned by a number of projects (IMAGINE, IMEA and others). This approach helps overcome information and institutional barriers. It was also pointed out that even a small trial is often not possible without some political commitment – which demonstrates the need to address political buy-in and the cross-cutting nature of energy efficiency.
Energy Services Companies (ESCOs) are an important mechanism in enabling larger scale investment in energy efficiency, particularly in the public sector – some of the projects could consider post project applications for assistance from sources such as ELENA, Convergence or national schemes. ESCOs help address the barriers of lack of available finance and can also help in addressing technical and commercial knowledge gaps within the public sector as well as the separation of expenditure and benefit barrier – because the initial capital outlay is reduced. Their importance is recognised in projects including STEP, REnergy, IMEA and REGREEN and in policy mechanisms including the ELENA programme and others. There could be post project potential for applications to project development assistance schemes, such as ELENA and others.
Technically focused projects need expert involvement and in-depth guidance. For projects with a technically advanced focus – ‘deep-dive’ visits (as used in the PLUS project) where technically knowledgeable officers from partner regions visit and review their peers in other partner countries are a good idea. This approach allows technically advanced participants to evaluate good practices, put their knowledge forward and present the ‘cutting-edge’. Another example of the benefits of technically specific, but practical, advice is the guide for users of low energy school buildings promoted in the EnercitEE project. Both of these examples are concerned with addressing barriers regarding the credibility of energy efficiency technology.
Energy efficiency is a truly cross-cutting and cross-sectoral issue – so projects need to consider multiple barriers, drivers and players if they are going to have a positive effect on the uptake of energy efficiency. This is reflected in the broad scope of very nearly all of the projects and in the increasing desire in policies and programmes to consider multiple applications across a number of fields at the same time. For example the GreenITNet project includes a clear example of an application that combines ICT, transport and energy efficiency, which is a very good match with the European Commission’s Smart Cities and Communities (SCC) initiative. The involvement of energy businesses and the focus on raising awareness and stimulating the desire to act among local politicians, which is evident in a number of the projects, is another example of the diverse issues that are key to success.
Making European Commission energy policy regionally and locally relevant and applicable remains a genuine need – local energy strategies are a great help. Regional / local energy plans help to focus and drive the transferability and uptake of good practices. These plans need to include baselines, roadmaps, indicators, and be realistic in order to be effective. They also need to capture local strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. This experience is apparent in a number of projects including REnergy and REGREEN. Transfer works better between regions with (strategic) energy efficiency plans.
INTERREG IVC helps disseminate the results of other energy efficiency programmes. A number of INTERREG IVC projects use / promote examples funded by other European Commission (EC) schemes concerned with (inter alia) promoting energy efficiency, e.g. Intelligent Energy Europe, the Framework Programme and LIFE+ . This approach should be viewed as positive as it produces good practice examples which should be of a certain quality (as they have received EC funding) and also helps spread the results and outputs of these projects to a wider audience.
Links between energy efficiency and regeneration and social inclusion are real and bring social as well as energy benefits. This is demonstrated in the SERPENTE and IMEA projects, with their inclusion of energy efficiency in social housing and the use of local citizens as role models to encourage their peers to consider and adapt energy efficiency lifestyles and choices. These benefits reflect the decision to include energy efficiency projects in structural funding – with its desire to achieve social as well as economic and environmental benefits.
Innovation can be relative, and INTERREG IVC has an important role to play in promoting transfer. It is important to recognise that the level of progress and awareness on energy efficiency varies from region to region. A key strength of the INTERREG IVC programme is arguably that it is designed to engage and support all levels of uptake, ranging from cutting-edge energy efficiency technologies (e.g. in PLUS) to the replication of well-known building energy efficiency techniques. Recognising this diversity of progress is key to addressing knowledge barriers.
The desire to save money remains a key driver for energy efficiency, although capital costs can still deter investments, especially during the downturn. Cost efficiency savings are the most important argument for the majority of people who need convincing (from politicians to companies to individuals). However many energy efficiency investments can produce very quick returns, and improvements are often possible through behaviour change, which costs nothing. Educating politicians and consumers on this point is a key step in enabling energy efficiency.
Green public procurement is an effective way for the public sector to lead by example and to help create a demand and market for energy efficient products and services. This approach helps to address the barriers of lack of awareness and technology credibility. It also illustrates the positive effect of drivers such as the potential for creating green jobs. This approach is promoted in a number of the projects, including REGREEN, SERPENTE, IMEA, IMAGINE and is also an approach that the EC is making continued efforts to promote.
Policy and practice in many areas affects energy efficiency - and can be changed to help. The example given in the GreenITNet project regarding the constraints involved in transferring energy-saving information about transport options to users, namely because of data-security concerns, highlights the fact that there is still potential for good regulation in related areas which could help enable energy efficiency, e.g. access to data on traffic for transport planning. Another example of this issue comes from the PLUS project where health and safety guidance was found to be a constraint on energy efficiency in street lighting.