Energy efficiency is a line of thinking which ideally needs to run parallel to efforts for increasing energy production. Many countries around the world have already started actively integrating this into their agenda after the United Nations initiated the global Sustainable Energy For All (SE4All) initiative, under which one of the key targets is to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.
Article 8 of the European Union Energy Efficiency Directive aims to drive energy efficiency in its member states and ultimately targets to achieve 20% saving in primary energy consumption by 2020. In UK, the Government has implemented Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) to comply with this directive. Driven by the Environment Agency, ESOS is a mandatory energy assessment for organisations which qualify for this scheme. This scheme is applicable for large undertakings and not SMEs and mandates them to audit their energy use every four years. Three mandatory action items are required for qualifying organisations. These are to measure the organisation’s total energy consumption, conduct energy audits to identify cost-effective energy efficiency recommendations and finally to report their compliance back to the Environment Agency. Different governmental agencies are training and providing lead assessors who are certified to conduct the audits. Their evaluations based on supporting evidence and their recommendations form part of a report which the organisation needs to act upon. The recommendations from the lead assessors are also required to be cost-effective such that they are practical and implementable.
China is another country which has proactively integrated energy efficiency and conservation. The government has set a target of 16% energy intensity reduction by 2015. In order to achieve this target, multiple policy measures have been implemented including energy efficiency labelling, minimum efficiency standards, financial incentives, etc. The financial instruments include direct funding of energy efficiency projects in industry and buildings, subsidised loans and loan and credit guarantees. As part of this program, the top 10,000 energy consuming enterprises are mandated to appoint energy managers, measure and report on energy consumption; prepare energy conservation plans; and reach energy consumption reduction targets. Energy intensity reduction targets have also been set for each province of the country. Energy efficiency standards for appliances, buildings and vehicles have also been made more stringent.
However, most companies globally do not have dedicated personnel to monitor energy efficiency, but it is an undeniable fact that attaining efficiency in energy use impacts the economics or operations of the plant. According to a McKinsey report, one Chinese state-owned company was able to lower energy consumption by 12% leading to savings of about $32 million. This was possible due to management endorsement and focus on energy efficiency leading to the incorporation of stringent measures to monitor and attain energy efficiency in each and every stage of the production process. In the context of energy efficiency incorporation, some countries are struggling to train and equip sufficient numbers of lead assessors or energy managers to facilitate the journey towards efficient energy use. Others are struggling to change the mind-set of the concerned personnel within corporates such that the process can be rolled out in the right direction. Lead assessors struggle with getting data and information from the clients once they have been hired to conduct the audits. Needless to say, the hurdles are minuscule if weighed up against the benefits and hence requires support from all relevant stakeholders.
Anika Ali is a Doctoral Researcher of Imperial College, London, UK.