Columnists: Rod Janssen, Independent consultant

Published on: 4 Oct 2016

Reflections on eceee’s recent industrial energy conference

Two hundred and fifty people can’t be wrong. Recently, eceee hosted its third bi-annual conference (some still call it a summer study) on industrial energy efficiency. It was a resounding success and has reinvigorated how Europe should go forward in promoting industrial energy efficiency. There were three important points that I take away from the conference.

First, it is obvious that industrial energy efficiency is being taken more seriously at the EU and national levels.  Industrial energy efficiency has always been a lower priority in EU energy efficiency policies, in part because it was felt that industry could solve its own problems and because there was a believe that the EU Emissions Trading System would provide the policy signals necessary to improve energy efficiency.

In 2012, the Energy Efficiency Directive had some requirements for the industrial sector, particularly related to mandatory audits for large industry and promotion of energy management systems (largely through ISO 50001). Other elements, such as the energy efficiency obligation, could be used for industry but did not have to be.  In 2015, a joint European Commission-UNEP Financial Initiative effort created the Energy Efficiency Financial Institutions Group (EEFIG) that published a landmark report that contains recommendations on a range of actions that could help overcome the current challenges to obtaining long-term financing for energy efficiency for industry as well as for buildings.

Second, there was a level of engagement and motivation at this year’s conference that was encouraging. Following the EEFIG effort, there was a lot related to financing. There was also considerable attention given to embedding energy management in the corporate culture, with the need to reach senior management. It is this effort that will bring long-term gains. Energy efficiency has to be seen for what it is: an enabler.  It enables companies to improve their competitiveness. It enables business to improve the quality of their products. It enables all to reduce their carbon footprint and improve air quality.

Third, the conference went back to basics: What is energy efficiency? What indicators should we be using to monitor changes in energy performance? What does industry need to better contribute to Europe’s 2020 and 2030 energy savings objectives? What policies are working? What policies are not working? It is important that we continually review where we are and where we came from. By doing so, we are more confident about moving forward.

The European Commission will soon come out with a new energy efficiency package that will recommend changes to the Energy Efficiency Directive and others. The Commission should learn the lessons coming out of the eceee conference. Importantly, there were Commission officials in attendance who were there to listen and to contribute. Even in the “normal” eceee summer studies, there are too few Commission staff participating to really get the pulse of what is going on in Europe.

eceee should be congratulated. It should also feel good about the buzz that continued after the conference ended. The increased use of non-peer reviewed papers allows for a wider voice to be heard. There are important stories to be told. And there is an important need for Europe’s industry to feel better about its activeness in the energy efficiency community in Europe. Berlin helped turn that corner.

One has to be careful not to be overly optimistic about the achievements. Still reeling in the world of financial crises and austerity, business is struggling in Europe. There is no simple path forward. But, if there can be an appreciation that improved energy efficiency helps, then good.  One step at a time, as they say!

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