Energy Efficiency Professionalism
It is widely accepted that energy efficiency improvement is the number one option to increase our security of supply and reduce the risks of climate change. However, we know that progress so far is limited – there are a lot of good examples, success stories and effective policies, but on a global scale, we fail to significantly speed up the rate of energy efficiency improvement.
Two important elements that determine future energy efficiency levels are prices and standards.
- Energy prices are a driver for more efficient behaviour. Policies can do much better than they do now. There are still very substantial subsidies on energy prices and not many countries include external costs of energy use in the price of energy.
- Energy efficiency standards are an effective way to control the performance of new buildings, cars, electric appliances and new industrial equipment. Also here, policies can do much better in setting tight and timely efficiency standards.
But impacts of prices are limited, and standards mainly determine how new equipment is designed, not how it is used. So, we need more. The keyword is professionalism.
What we need is a change in behaviour. And then I do not mean the behaviour of the final consumers of energy. That is often advocated, but then we put the burden on the wrong target group. End-users can influence their energy use, but only to a limited extent. What we need most of all is a change in behaviour of professionals. Professionals such as installers, designers of equipment, process managers, building managers, architects, real estate developers, and sales-people in an electronics shop. These professionals shape and control the world around us. They have a large influence on how much energy we use in our homes and at work.
An illustration. We recently completed an assessment of the impact of better industrial insulation. Initially, we thought that substantial savings would be possible by increasing the insulation standards: thicker insulation. That turns out to be correct. But to our surprise an even higher saving is possible by just better maintenance of existing insulation systems. So, it is in this case the local technical staff that allowed the greatest energy losses. In a refinery, a friend of mine concluded that € 1 million per year could be saved by replacing faulty heat recovery condensers, with a very short payback time. It wasn’t done by the maintenance manager, because he would only see the cost, and the operations manager would reap the benefits.
How do professionals need to become more professional on energy efficiency?
- First of all, they need to have the right tools. Information on energy efficiency, labeling of equipment, guidebooks, purchasing standards, energy monitoring systems, benchmarks, etc.
- Second, professionals need training. Energy efficiency is still largely underrepresented in technical training, at virtually all levels. Energy efficiency needs to be part of regular education, but also refresher courses are needed.
- And last but not least, they need to get the right financial incentives. Building managers and process managers need to be rewarded for cutting energy use. It works! One of our clients implemented an energy-efficiency based bonus system for their location managers. An immediate saving of 10% resulted. Targets of all involved stakeholders need to be aligned in such a way that they work together to achieve a result.
How to get professionals to become energy efficiency professionals? There definitely is a role for policy makers, e.g. when it comes to tools and training. But there is a much bigger role challenge for trade organisations and professional organisations to work with their members to make energy efficient behaviour part of day-to-day professional life.