How can barriers to energy efficiency improvements be overcome?

This project entailed an extensive and detailed analysis of energy efficiency projects supported by the programme Interreg IVC of the European Union. This research tried to understand how to overcome barriers for these type of projects, namely: financial barriers (unwillingness from investors to fund them), institutional and administrative barriers, and information and awareness barriers. The project lasted three years and included several different activities and research methods. Besides literature and data review, it included workshops and interviews with relevant stakeholders.

Example of project analysed: Potsdam Garden City. Source: Pia von Zadow Landschaftsarchitekten.

Key findings of the research can be summarised as follows:

  • Community involvement is an effective way of bringing change: Involving a diverse range of actors promotes credibility and uptake – but it requires work on creating a ‘common language’.
  • There is a need to work on raising the awareness of citizens, but especially of officers and politicians. The projects have reported that they are often willing and interested if the arguments are presented appropriately and practical tools are developed.
  • Assessing transferability of technology is key to define priority of projects. Some sectors and applications are more transferable than others – energy use in public buildings appears to offer some good transferability. However, not everything can be easily transferred.
  • Lighting pilot projects are effective – but they must be resourced and the project partners must be ‘willing to fail’.
  • Energy Services Companies (ESCOs) are an important mechanism in enabling larger scale investment in energy efficiency, particularly in the public sector – some of the projects could consider post project applications for assistance from sources such as ELENA, Convergence or national schemes.
  • Technically focussed projects need expert involvement and in-depth guidance.
  • Saving money remains a key driver for energy efficiency, though capital costs can still deter investments, especially during Economic downturn.
  • Green public procurement is an effective way for the public sector to lead by example and to help create a demand and market for energy efficient products and services.