Fukushima has been a painful reminder that each energy source has its drawbacks, and none comes without side effects. To realise our ambitious climate objectives, we must above all stop wasting energy and use energy in a much smarter and more efficient way. This is not a new insight, but turning this insight into action has proven remarkably difficult. How the existing obstacles to energy efficiency can be overcome, and which initiatives have worked successfully for Germany and the UK so far, was the topic of a discussion event at the UK Embassy in Berlin, moderated by Benjamin Görlach, Senior Fellow at Ecologic Institute.
Energy efficiency is a puzzle. On the one hand, countless studies have identified the huge potential for energy savings, and quantified the substantial economic benefits. Energy efficiency is the cornerstone of all long-term energy scenarios and roadmaps to the low-carbon economy. On the other hand, most of these energy saving potentials and win-win-solutions have been known for years. And still, implementation is trailing behind ambition: thus, the EU Commission recently concluded that the EU is about to miss its energy efficiency target (20% improvement by 2020) with the measures adopted so far.
So how can we succeed at ramping up energy efficiency? This was the topic of a discussion event hosted by the British Embassy in Berlin, which brought together the views of business and politics from Germany and the UK. Some 70 participants attended the event, organised by the UK Embassy and the Federal Environment Ministry as part of the UK Climate Week.
Parliamentary State Secretary Katharina Reiche of Germany’s Federal Environment Ministry and Greg Barker, State Minister for Climate Change at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change provided the policy perspective on the issue. As regards climate targets, Germany and the UK are both among the leading countries in Europe, and both have realised the significance of energy efficiency to achieve their climate objectives. And yet, when it comes to promoting energy efficiency, they favour different policy instruments. Germany trusts the tried-and-tested measures, such as ordinances for the thermal insulation standard of buildings, or the KfW programme subsiding the retrofitting of existing buildings with state-of-the-art insulation. Overall, the German policy mix has been effective in raising the heating efficiency of buildings. The UK, by contrast, has some scope for improvements – with its building stock among the least energy efficient in Europe. The new government has taken up this challenge, and wants to tackle it with a suite of smart regulation measures. A key component is the Green Deal, which targets private homeowners and tenants. The Green Deal will enable homeowners to overcome several obstacles, which have prevented energy efficiency investments in the past: it improves information and transparency, it makes funding available, and – in the case of rented homes – it reconciles the incentives of landlords and tenants.
But energy efficiency is not only a challenge for policy, it is also an opportunity for businesses. The outlook for this emerging market is good – provided the regulatory frameworks are in place. This point was illustrated by Martin Bornholdt, CEO of the German Business Initiative for Energy Efficiency (DENEFF), and Graham Kirby, Retail Energy Policy Manager at Eon UK, who discussed how energy companies can deliver energy efficiency potential together with their customers.
A panel discussion with participants from business and politics concluded the event, including Mr Bornholdt and Mr Kirby as well as Mark Weaver, Marketing Manager at industrial mortar manufacturer Weber, Dan Monzani from DECC, and Dr. Silke Karcher from BMU.
- Report on the event by the British Embassy
- Commentary by Minister of State Greg Barker on renewables support and energy efficiency policy in the Guardian newspaper
- Background information by DECC on the Green Deal
- Background information on Germany’s energy efficiency policies by the Federal Environment Ministry
- Information on European energy efficiency policies by the Climate Action Network Europe