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The importance of energy audits in promoting energy efficiency among SMEs: Results from industry interviews

Panel: 2. Energy management and corporate culture

Authors:
Aiga Barisa, Portugal
Miklos Horvath
Tamas Csoknyai
Georg Benke, e7, Austria
Paula Fonseca, ISR-University of Coimbra, Portugal
Pedro Moura, Institute of Systems and Robotics - University of Coimbra, Portugal
Margarita Puente, ESCAN s.l.., Spain
Marta Mazurkiewicz
Laura Bano, SOGESCA, Italy
Andrea Cervato
Nina Nikolova
Mihael Deliyski
Vladimir Tsankov
Andreas Androutsopoulos, CRES - Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and Saving, Buildings Dept, Greece
Ricards Stivrins
Gatis Žogla, Ekodoma Ltd., Latvia

Abstract

Energy audits provide companies with complete information on energy consumption and tailor-made recommendations for energy savings. Promotion of energy audits and uptake of measures from the reports is critical for industrial energy efficiency and increase of renewable energy use. However, important limitations remain such as energy audit promotion within SMEs and follow-up audits on how the measures recommended in energy audits have been implemented by the enterprises.

The aim of this study was to gain better knowledge of the energy auditing process at companies and how decisions regarding the uptake of recommended measures are made. The study was conducted within the EU-funded LIFE program project KNOWnNEBs (grant agreement No.101076494) in the period from June to October 2023. As part of it, 85 structured interviews were conducted with company representatives in 9 EU countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Spain, Poland, and Portugal). The target group was SMEs (85% of respondents). Target sectors included the food and beverages sector (80% of interviews) and other sectors (wood processing, manufacture of fabricated metal products (except machinery and equipment), manufacture of perfumes and toilet preparations, building and construction materials, hospitals and residential care). In order to participate in the survey, the companies had to have an energy audit within the last 2-3 years.

The survey consisted of 19 questions, the interviewing was done in person or by telephone. Both company management (decision makers) and technical specialists were interviewed. The aim was to identify the main aspects of the decision-making process. Special attention was paid to the motivation to implement energy efficiency measures based on non-energy benefits, as well as how these non-energy benefits are perceived by company representatives.

Some of the findings from the study showed that:

• Major reasons for performing the energy audit were the reduction of energy costs, the possibility of attracting EU funds, and legal obligation (for large companies);

• The vast majority of responsible decision makers who had to decide on energy audits lacked even basic energy competencies;

• The energy crisis had a significant impact on attitude change towards the energy audits for the majority of respondents. Some pointed out that since the crisis, it is much easier to convince decision-makers;

• Three-quarters of the respondents considered the processes related to energy efficiency measures as the most important part of the energy audit (compared to building envelope and transport);

• As negative experiences from implementing energy efficiency measures respondents mentioned financial aspects as the very first reason; other answers included technical or organizational reasons;

• From the positive aspects, many experienced a positive effect on the employees' energy- and environment-conscious attitude; some indicated a better understanding of the processes and a recognition of the need for regular monitoring of energy consumption after the energy audit;

• Regarding the non-energy benefits, company representatives emphasized the positive effect on the company's efficiency. Many highlighted the importance of a green image. Several mentioned the positive effects on the work environment.

The results of the study agree with the conclusions of other studies that energy audits are an important source of information for decision makers in companies. It became clear that industries are aware of energy efficiency possibilities in their processes and are open for recommendations that contribute to that goal. Investigating why energy efficiency measures are implemented following energy audits is an important aid in communicating energy efficiency measures more attractively for implementation in order to increase their acceptance.

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