Individual action is not only about turning down the thermostat, putting on a sweater or leaving the car in the garage. While every measure counts, we can make a bigger difference by thinking about action in our spheres of influence:
- As consumers, buying more sustainable products and questioning retailer practices;
- As citizens, checking our municipality’s policies;
- As neighbours, recognizing good and bad practices in our vicinity;
- As employees, setting a good example in our working environments.
There’s always more we can do with energy efficiency, but sometimes it’s good to step back and see what has already been done.
For example, the EU’s drive towards a more energy efficient future has produced benefits such as:
- New buildings consume half the energy they did in the 1980s.
- Energy intensity in EU industry decreased by 16% between 2005 and 2014.
- More efficient appliances are expected to save households about €465 per year on their energy bills by 2020.
We mentioned earlier the paradox of energy efficiency: regulation far from suffices, yet efficiency does not happen without regulation.
Therefore, we need a systems approach in more than one sense:
- Think beyond products to consider systems [11, 63, 81];
- Think beyond regulation to include best engineering practices and user behaviour [3, 32];
- Think beyond the initial purchase and installation to consider lifetime operation and maintenance.
Energy consumption is the result of many factors, such as design, maintenance, user behaviour and weather patterns, to name a few. Some of these are within our control, others aren’t.
Especially demographic trends, such as population growth, smaller family units and ageing populations have a tendency to increase the amount of energy services we consume.
All the more reason to pursue cost-effective technical measures to save energy wherever we can.
The reasons why EU citizens cannot invest in energy efficiency investment opportunities with a good financial return are similar to the reasons why the ESCO market does not develop as fast as expected .
This is another market failure since citizens will be highly interested to earn a 10% interest rate while society needs these energy savings for a cost-effective energy transition.
Metering technology is advancing fast [4, 61], energy management systems are being put in place and solutions for peer-to-peer transactions are emerging. This gives hope that the future may significantly differ from the past.