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Energy efficiency boosts both competitiveness and resilience

Reducing the demand for electricity can both strengthen the competitiveness of businesses and save money for households. 
"There are a number of quick fixes that can be taken, but to really make a difference, energy efficiency improvements are needed at the system level," says Sara Bargi, project manager at RISE.

The EU Energy Efficiency Directive, negotiated jointly by the member states, states that the Union must reduce its energy consumption by 11.7% by 2030. The European Commission has stated that Sweden must reduce its annual energy consumption to below 296 TWh if the EU countries are to meet their common target.

This is a significant reduction from the 355-370 TWh of recent years. Especially if you take into account new industrialisation, new buildings and the strong electrification we see ahead. But it is by no means impossible - if the right measures are taken.

"Economists often say that energy efficiency improvements are profitable, so they should be done. But all the research shows that measures are not taken just because they are profitable. We know very well why. Simply put, people have other things on their minds. Even if you save money by switching to an air-source heat pump at home, it's more fun to replace the kitchen cupboards. The same logic applies to businesses," says Sara Bargi.

For example, many companies could reuse much more of the residual heat from their industrial processes. To heat their own premises or those of their neighbours, or to heat the process again by raising the temperature of the residual heat with a heat pump. Today, much of the waste heat is cooled.

Need a boost

But investment is more likely to go into expanding production activities. It is also probably easier to raise capital to increase revenue than to reduce costs - the core business comes first.

"So a boost is needed. A grant or a tax rebate. Watered-down environmental legislation. If we want to achieve more energy efficiency, we need policy instruments," says Sara Bargi.

Using energy more efficiently and cutting unnecessary costs and processes in practice strengthens both resilience and competitiveness

Better governance can deliver savings

There are already many profitable efficiency improvements that can be made with relatively simple means and without reducing comfort or production. There are unused resources in industrial processes. Misaligned district heating centres are another low-hanging fruit.

"There is a lot to be done with the control of heating systems in buildings. For example, we could save more than 4 TWh per year in the heating of single-family homes with better controls and thermostats."

Improving efficiency through renovation

Sara Bargi also highlights the potential for energy efficiency in the renovation of Million Programme areas. It is estimated that around 70 per cent of multi-family dwellings can save half of their energy consumption.

"This means that for every such area, there is the potential to free up energy for an area of the same size," she says.

The first steps in improving energy efficiency can be small. They can be as simple as being more flexible. Turning down the heating between 7 and 9 a.m. to compensate for the sun's constant rays. Or reducing production when electricity prices are high.

"Using energy more efficiently and cutting unnecessary costs and processes in practice strengthens both resilience and competitiveness. It makes you less sensitive to price fluctuations. Those who build such flexibility into their processes have a competitive advantage," concludes Sara Bargi.

* Compared to 2005

Sara Bargi suggests two different approaches to getting started with energy efficiency.

  1. Attack from the bottom up and look at each component. Are your compressed air hoses leaking? Are you switching off at night? Are you maintaining your electric motors - many are oversized and not speed controlled, meaning they draw more power than necessary.
  2. Attack from the top and look at the system level. This usually requires investment, but can lead to radical savings. For example, if you electrify an LPG-fuelled process, less excess heat and exhaust means the ventilation system can be downsized.
Sara Bargi

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Sara Bargi


+46 10 516 50 04

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