Training, the development of corporate policies and energy audits, keys to the success of energy efficiency measures in SMEs
Mariana Fernández, Director of Communication and Training at Sustainable Innovations and Head of Communication for the SPEEDIER project 11/04/2021
DEESME, E2DRIVER, ICCEE, INNOVEAS, SMEmPower Efficiency, SPEEDIER and Triple-A address, from different angles, the problems when implementing energy efficiency measures in SMEs in Europe. However, all of them have identified, in various investigations carried out through interviews, discussion groups and documentary analysis, common points that have allowed them to work on a global, enlightening approach for making decisions that help improve implementation. effective energy efficiency measures in Europe.
Article 8 of the European Directive on Energy Efficiency (EAD) requires Member States to establish national incentives to help SMEs carry out energy audits. Given that SMEs represent 99.98% of European companies and are responsible for around 13% of total energy demand, it is clear that they have enormous potential to save energy and contribute to the capacity of the EU of 27 to achieve their collective goals under the DEE of a 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. To date, little of this potential has been realized according to various studies that estimate that only 25% of SMEs in Europe they have carried out an energy audit and a series of investigations that cite barriers including lack of time, internal experience, financing and the low-priority nature of energy efficiency compared to other business needs. Article 8 also requires large companies to conduct energy audits every four years, however a recent study suggests that only 11% of large companies that conduct an audit intend to implement any of its recommendations, and two of each five companies cite a lack of funding or financial resources as compelling reasons.
In this context, a group of projects financed under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program work to alleviate these barriers and guarantee that the objectives established by that article 8 are, indeed, achievable.DEESME, E2DRIVER, ICCEE, INNOVEAS, SMEmPower Efficiency, SPEEDIER and Triple-A address, from different angles, the problems when implementing energy efficiency measures in SMEs in Europe. However, all of them have identified, in various investigations carried out through interviews, discussion groups and documentary analysis, common points that have allowed them to work on a global, enlightening approach for making decisions that help improve implementation. effective energy efficiency measures in Europe.
In this way, the seven projects have carried out an exhaustive analysis in SMEs from sectors as diverse as food, automotive, goods and services, commerce, construction, education, hospitality, manufacturing, and chemical in Germany, Chipe, Slovenia, Spain , France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, United Kingdom and Romania.
DEESME makes it easier for SMEs to participate in the energy transition by taking advantage of the multiple benefits of energy management and audit approaches, providing national and supranational authorities with guidelines and recommendations to strengthen energy policies.
The main objective of E2DRIVER is to train SMEs in the automotive sector and promote capacity building programs in energy auditing by establishing an innovative learning platform.
For its part, ICCEE will accelerate the conversion of energy efficiency opportunities into real investments, with a special focus on supply chains that involve European SMEs thanks to analysis tools and specific capacity building programs.
INNOVEAS aims to design and implement personnel training and capacity building programs to improve corporate policy towards energy efficiency and culture and sustainable supply chain initiatives.
In regards to SMEmPower Efficiency, this project will ensure that many of the existing barriers to the implementation of energy efficiency measures are removed by activating the training of energy professionals and decision makers, experts in training of SMEs, consulting companies, financial entities and energy service companies (ESCO), and especially employers’ associations or industrial professionals.
SPEEDIER, meanwhile, is an innovative one-stop shop solution that applies an integrated approach to energy management, providing information, advice, capacity building, energy auditing, financing, implementation of energy efficiency solutions and impact monitoring.
Finally, Triple-A aims to help financial institutions and project developers increase their deployment of energy efficiency capital, making investments more transparent, predictable and attractive.
Financing and training workshops, necessary for energy efficiency in SMEs
The main barrier to the implementation of energy efficiency improvements for SMEs is identified as the lack of financing or ignorance of subsidies, loans, or national support plans, although possible work overload also affects. Another notable finding was that SMEs do not usually perform audits because they do not trust that the potential savings from efficiency measures will outweigh the efforts or expenses involved in conducting that audit. Participating SMEs expressed their preference in outsourcing energy management to an external energy consultant, as most do not have an energy manager.
Despite this preference, mistrust in some auditors suggests the need to identify the companies required to undergo audits, their effective compliance and quality, achieve a compromise between the reporting effort and follow-up, increase adoption. of measures and the creation of support schemes, as well as raising awareness of energy efficiency opportunities.
This ignorance of the sources of financing and the return on that investment generated leads SMEs to be interested in training workshops that help them improve their skills about energy efficiency and its implementation at all levels of the company.
Another point of view analyzed is the economic and investment point of view. In this regard, the analyzes carried out indicated that building owners tend not to assess the energy performance of their assets when there is no such legal requirement. Only a minority of buildings have a voluntary Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), partly because it is not legally required and, additionally, because there is a lack of incentives for owners. Although a building’s high energy efficiency can significantly influence long-term capital investments, high cost, lack of capital, and lack of standardized financing avenues discourage building owners from implementing energy efficiency measures. However, some modifications, such as those related to the building envelope, ventilation, air conditioning and heating (HVAC) and lighting fixtures, can increase property values when applied. Unfortunately, as most SMEs use their own resources to finance investments in energy efficiency, they prioritize low-cost energy efficiency measures such as LED lighting in the short term.
Flexibility to adapt to the needs of each SME
From all the results shown, it is clear that there are a series of barriers and drivers for the performance of energy audits and the effective implementation of energy efficiency measures in SMEs. These difficulties and factors may vary depending on the country of operation, the business sector, the size of the company and / or the ownership of the building.
As an outstanding conclusion of the research, it is suggested that all those services that focus on increasing energy efficiency in SMEs should be flexible enough to adapt to their individual requirements. Therefore, before proceeding with an energy audit, it is always advisable to know the reality and requirements of the company. A personalized service that is adjusted to the needs will encourage the company staff in their commitment to efficiency and the company in the implementation of energy efficiency measures.
The analysis of the results of the research carried out showed the importance of increasing opportunities for training in energy efficiency among both business leaders and employees, as well as the urgent need for transparency in information on incentives and financing options in the regions where they are located. They’re available.
SMEs require training actions to help them appoint an energy manager, develop an efficiency strategy, schedule audits and collaborate with an energy consultant for the evaluation and planning of any type of energy efficiency measure (not only those with the lowest cost). and easy implantation).
In addition, the commitment with stakeholders to establish better financing mechanisms and channels is essential to overcome the resistance of SMEs when it comes to conducting energy audits and implementing energy efficient management and conditioning systems.
It is all these measures that will undoubtedly contribute to the fulfillment of Article 8 of the EED for the European Member States and also to the achievement of the collective objective of the Member States of a 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 in the framework of the DEE.
The original article in Spanish language is available online in the magazine “El Instalador”.