Training, development of corporate policies and energy audits, keys to the success of energy efficiency measures in SMEs

21 February 2022 by Erika Maugeri
Training, development of corporate policies and energy audits, keys to the success of energy efficiency measures in SMEs

European Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) requires Member States to establish national incentives to help SMEs carry out energy audits. SMEs account for 99.98% of European businesses and are responsible for approximately 13% of total energy demand. Currently only 25% of SMEs in Europe have undertaken an energy audit and a range of research citing barriers including lack of time, in-house expertise, funding and the low priority nature of energy efficiency compared to other business needs. A group of projects funded under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program are working to alleviate these barriers.

DEESME, E2DRIVER, ICCEE, INNOVEAS, SMEmPower Efficiency, SPEEDIER and Triple-A address, from different angles, the problem of implementing energy efficiency measures in SMEs in Europe.


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Training, 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 04/11/2021

 

DEESME, E2DRIVER, ICCEE, INNOVEAS, SMEmPower Efficiency, SPEEDIER and Triple-A approach, from different angles, the problem of implementing energy efficiency measures in SMEs in Europe. However, all of them have identified, in various investigations carried out through interviews, focus groups and documentary analysis, common points that have allowed them to work on a global approach, enlightening for decision making to help improve the effective implementation of energy efficiency measures in Europe.

 

Article 8 of the European Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) requires Member States to establish national incentives to help SMEs to carry out energy audits. Given that SMEs account for 99.98% of European businesses and are responsible for approximately 13% of total energy demand, it is clear that they have enormous potential to save energy and contribute to the EU27's ability to achieve its collective targets under the EED of a 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. To date, little of this potential has been realized according to various studies estimating that only 25% of SMEs in Europe have undertaken an energy audit and a range of research citing barriers including lack of time, in-house expertise, funding 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, yet a recent study suggests that only 11% of large companies that conduct an audit intend to implement any of its recommendations, with two out of five companies citing lack of funding or financial resources as compelling reasons.

 

In this context, a group of projects funded under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program are working to alleviate these barriers and ensure that the objectives set by Article 8 are indeed achievable.

DEESME, E2DRIVER, ICCEE, INNOVEAS, SMEmPower Efficiency, SPEEDIER and Triple-A address, from different angles, the problem of 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 approach, enlightening for decision making to help improve the effective implementation of energy efficiency measures in Europe. In this way, the seven projects have carried out an exhaustive analysis in SMEs in sectors as diverse as food, automotive, goods and services, commerce, construction, education, hospitality, manufacturing, and chemicals in Germany, Cyprus, Slovenia, Spain, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom and Romania.

  • DEESME facilitates SMEs' participation in the energy transition by leveraging the multiple benefits of energy management and auditing approaches, providing national and supranational authorities with guidelines and recommendations to strengthen energy policies.
  • The main objective of E2DRIVER is to train automotive SMEs and boost capacity building programs in energy auditing through the establishment of an innovative learning platform.
  • ICCEE will accelerate the conversion of energy efficiency opportunities into real investments, with a special focus on supply chains involving European SMEs through analysis tools and specific capacity building programs.
  • INNOVEAS aims to design and implement staff training and capacity building programs to improve corporate policy towards energy efficiency and culture and sustainable supply chain initiatives.
  • As far as SMEmPower Efficiency is concerned, 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, training experts from SMEs, consulting firms, financial institutions and energy service companies (ESCOs), and especially employers' associations or industrial professionals.
  • SPEEDIER is an innovative one-stop 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 needed for energy efficiency in SMEs

The main barrier to the implementation of energy efficiency improvements for SMEs is identified as lack of funding or lack of knowledge of grants, loans, or national support schemes, although possible work overload also plays a role. Another notable finding was that SMEs tend not to carry out audits because they are not confident that the potential savings from efficiency measures will offset the effort or expense involved in carrying out the audit. Participating SMEs expressed a preference for outsourcing energy management to an external energy consultant, as most do not have an energy manager.

Despite this preference, the lack of trust in some auditors suggests the need for the identification of companies obliged to undergo audits, the effective compliance and quality of these audits, achieving a compromise between reporting effort and follow-up, increasing the adoption of measures and the creation of support schemes, as well as raising awareness of energy efficiency opportunities.

This lack of knowledge of the sources of financing and the return on investment generated leads SMEs to be interested in training workshops to help them improve their skills in energy efficiency and its implementation at all levels of the company.

Another of the points of view analyzed is economic and investment. In this regard, the analyses carried out indicated that building owners tend not to evaluate 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, the high cost, lack of capital, and lack of standardized financing avenues discourage building owners from implementing energy efficiency measures. However, some retrofits, such as those related to the building envelope, ventilation, air conditioning and heating (HVAC), and lighting fixtures, can increase property value when implemented. Unfortunately, as most SMEs use their own resources to finance energy efficiency investments, they prioritize low-cost energy efficiency measures such as LED lighting in the short term.

 

The original article in Spanish language is available online in the magazine "El Instalador".