Columnists: Rod Janssen, Independent consultant

Published on: 7 Jun 2016

Raising our game

2016 is proving to be a fascinating year for the energy efficiency community. We brought in the new year with the joy of a global climate deal in Paris only weeks before. Fine. But, what does that agreement really mean?
Increasingly we are hearing the expected impact on our environment if we do not more seriously curtail our greenhouse gas emissions. There are many options for mitigating GHG emissions and they all need to be analysed and prioritised for overall impact. Cost effectiveness has to be assessed but, as for total impact, we are looking at global benefits. That means cost effectiveness needs to be seen from an economy, a societal or a global perspective.  Looking at it from an individual’s perspective simply does not make sense.

At global climate conferences, in government corridors and at international events, we hear so much about the benefit of this or the benefit of that. It can be dizzying and the layman (or even the average decision maker) has an almost impossible role in knowing where the priorities should be.

So, here we are as part of the energy efficiency community.  What are we to make of all of this? We are chuffed that influential people are now talking about energy efficiency first. There are many good signs and that gives us encouragement. There are some negative signs and those are worrisome. Primarily amongst the negatives, I consider the poor state of implementation at the national level in Europe to be a major concern. But, more importantly, poor implementation to me means a low priority amongst policymakers. We know how to design and implement programmes. We know how to monitor and evaluate. We know what are the best means to motivate consumers in all sectors. We just don’t do any of them enough and too often we are not given sufficient resources to do them well.

I simply do not accept excuses. But I believe the problem is more serious than that.  Compared to what happens in the US, for example, we simply do not do enough data gathering, programme design, programme piloting and policy analysis. If energy efficiency is to be considered the first fuel, as many do, then why is there not the same quality and level of data gathering for energy demand as there is for energy supply? How can we know what to do to properly renovate a building if we don’t really know the energy consumption flows?

Not that many years ago the Commission pushed through changes to the energy label without any proper, comprehensive analysis prior to its proposals.  We used analysis that had come from very good studies in Australia! Only recently, EuroACE has criticised the quality of evaluation by the Joint Research Centre of the national renovation strategies under the Energy Efficiency Directive. That is unacceptable. How can we improve these directives or recommend new ones if we are walking blind.

With the roll out of smart meters under the internal market reform, is there any strategy on how the data from those meters can be used to promote energy efficiency and collect real data instead of relying on modelled data? I doubt it.

There is a need to seize the moment. There is a need for more analytical rigour. There is a need to be about to counter any proposals by the European Commission (or others) in order to ensure that our policies and programmes squeeze out every unneeded kilowatt-hour and that we play our role in climate change mitigation strategies that represent our potential contribution. If we know that 35-50% % of carbon emissions come from buildings, for example, then we have to step up to accept our responsibility. But we cannot effectively do our utmost in any of the end-use sectors without quality work on demand analysis, new policies, programme development and monitoring & evaluation. Nothing should be untouched.

But, to do this, there is a need for two things: an appreciation that this work really is needed and that it is worth funding, and an entirely new approach to long-term funding for these analytical building blocks.  Oil companies and electricity utilities certainly take their data collection and analysis seriously and seldom skimp on funding those activities. Such should also be the same on the demand side at all levels – local, regional, national and international. And decision makers need to understand this.

We simply cannot truly consider energy efficiency first if we have one hand tied behind our back.

There is serious need for more discussion on this. Hopefully eceee will take the lead.

The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Rod Janssen

Oct 2016

Apr 2016

Nov 2011