It is widely accepted that energy efficiency improvement is the number one option to increase our security of energy supply and reduce the risk of climate change. However, we know that progress so far has been limited – there are many good examples, success stories and effective policies, but on a global scale, we are failing to sufficiently speed up the rate of energy efficiency improvement.

Photo by Martin Adams

So far, probably the most successful policies for energy efficiency improvement are energy efficiency standards: minimum energy performance standards for appliances, building codes, fuel economy standards for cars, and so on. But energy efficiency standards mainly determine how new equipment is designed, not how it is used. So, we need more. The key word is: professionalism.

What we need is a change in behaviour. I do not mean the behaviour of final consumers of energy, it is not about turning down the thermostat or showering shorter. That is often advocated and it is OK, but if we only do this, we put the burden on the wrong target group. End-users can influence their energy use, but only to a limited extent.

What we need most of all is a change in behaviour of professionals. Professionals such as installers, process managers, building managers, architects, designers of equipment, real estate developers, and sales-people in an electronics shop. These professionals shape and control the world around us. They have a large influence on how much energy we use in our homes and at work.

An illustration. We (= Ecofys) completed an assessment of the impact of better industrial insulation. Initially, we thought that substantial savings would be possible by increasing the insulation standards: thicker insulation. That turned out to be correct. But to our surprise, even higher savings were possible just by improving maintenance of existing insulation systems. So, in this case, it was the local technical staff that allowed the greatest energy losses.

How do professionals need to become more professional regarding energy efficiency?

  • First of all, they need to have the right tools. Information on energy efficiency, labeling of equipment, guidebooks, purchasing standards, energy monitoring systems, benchmarks, etc.
  • Second, professionals need training. Energy efficiency is still largely underrepresented in technical training, at virtually all levels. Energy efficiency needs to be part of regular education, but refresher courses are also needed.
  • And last but not least, they need to get the right financial incentives. Building managers and process managers need to be rewarded for cutting energy use. It works! One of our clients implemented an energy efficiency based bonus system for their location managers. This resulted in an immediate saving of 10%. Targets of all involved stakeholders need to be aligned in such a way that they work together to achieve a result.

How to get professionals to become energy efficiency professionals? There definitely is a role for policy makers, e.g. when it comes to tools and training. But there is a much bigger challenge for trade organizations and professional organizations to work with their members on making energy efficient behaviour part of day-to-day professional life.

This is a summary of a panel intervention given at the World Future Energy Summit, Abu Dhabi, 15 – 17 January 2013.