Compared to renewable energy systems, energy efficiency improvements have one major disadvantage: their yield is more difficult to quantify. Such quantification is vital for proving carbon emission savings and investment payback. Where to set the baseline and the system boundaries?
Measuring the energy consumption only at the utility meter is not sufficient, but a large number of decentralized meters leads to a large amount of data; how to turn this data into valid performance indicators? The question remains just as urgent as three years ago. Maybe the abundant evidence on the effectiveness of energy efficiency combined with its multiple benefits suffices to pursue it even without watertight quantification.
Energy efficiency is well recognized as the biggest and cheapest potential for decarbonising the EU economy.
Through the ‘efficiency first’ principle, recognition is increasing for improving Europe’s energy independence, which is of course strongly linked to decarbonisation efforts.
The same linkages can be made with electricity instead of efficiency. As a high exergy form of energy, there is a factor 2 to 5 improvement in end-use efficiency when substituting other energy carriers by electricity. In addition, as a single system with many sources and potentially serving all energy needs, it is relatively easy to plug in another electricity source to diversify supply and improve energy security.
The multiple benefits of energy efficiency are a recurring theme in this booklet [50, 77, 79, 92]. A lot of work has been performed to identify and quantify these benefits at the macro level, producing a reasonable body of evidence for policy makers.
However, little progress has been made thus far to make the multiple benefits count at the micro level, i.e. for projects. That’s why it is exciting news that a H2020 project is starting on this topic – the M-Benefits project on ‘Valuing and Communicating the Multiple Benefits of Energy-Efficiency Projects’. The promise of M-Benefits is nothing less than promoting energy efficiency to be a strategic priority within organisations.
Have you ever wondered what the link is between energy efficiency and clean air?
Reducing energy consumption lessens the need to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity. Those cuts deliver big gains in health, because pollutants from burning fossil fuels contribute to four of the leading causes of death: cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disease and stroke.
Energy efficiency also improves air quality indoors, making people healthier and more comfortable inside their homes. Efficiency improvements can remove health risks such as carbon monoxide from backdrafting appliances and eliminate exposure to extreme temperatures.
Minimizing heat losses in electrical installations improves both energy efficiency and fire prevention. Choosing a conductor material with a high conductivity serves both goals. Sound design, correct installation and thorough maintenance of electrical contacts are important as well.
When advocating for energy efficiency, associated fire safety benefits increasingly receive attention through the recently revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Vice versa, when advocating for electrical safety, more attention could go to the synergies with energy efficiency.