Columnists: Hans Nilsson, Fourfact

Published on: 26 Apr 2016

Buy an alarm bell for the sleeping giant!

The German minister for economics called energy efficiency the sleeping giant some years ago.

Several of his colleagues on various levels and in many countries have over and over again paid their tribute (in words) to the concept of energy efficiency as being the most climate friendly and less costly of all resources. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has with gradually increasing intensity made efforts to show the size and character of the potential. Not to mention that eceee with its systematic gathering of evidence and communication, e.g. through its Summer Studies, updates the professionals and academia on the forefront of the subject. Yet, still so little happens to release this HUGE opportunity. The giant hardly moves in his sleep.

Simon Skillings of E3G, the independent experts on climate diplomacy and energy policy, recently reminded us of the shortcomings of governance: “ We expect consumers to act as perfectly rational economic agents, responding to price signals and investing accordingly. It seems fanciful to expect this ‘price and pray’ approach to deliver the wide consumer engagement needed.

And here is certainly an important part of the reasons for inactivity. We expect that users should continuously be aware and make correct judgements and calculations for their energy use. A use that is composed and dependent on several technological components with various characteristics.

The IEA in its 2014 edition of its annual World Energy Outlook criticised even professional economists for not understanding energy efficiency as an opportunity that could improve the economy in their companies: “In contrast to traditional energy-supply investment, energy efficiency investments offer expectations of future cost savings rather than an asset generating a specific cash flow”.

So what can we do? Is a retraining (or re-orientation) of economists and even more so of ourselves even possible? Certainly to some extent. The EU framework directives that require energy companies to act for efficiency and industries to improve audits and management are good tools for all member states. They will no doubt take us a bit down the road. The giant will at least start to scratch himself.

But what else could happen? Could new technologies be of some help? A route that we have seen start to develop is of course ITC. Some of its advantages are already recognised and there is a vibrant activity within the field of smart grids and appliances.

But what about smart diagnosis? We see that drones are now used for auditing. Could their humming be annoying for the giant?

And what about apps and games? Could these kids that develop these instruments and stay up all night playing become useful for efficiency? Could gaming instruments be used for simulation and detecting/calculation of energy efficiency including their multiple benefits?

Could they be the alarm bell for the giant?  Well, yes, maybe they could . . .


Other columns by Hans Nilsson