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Europe is only at the beginning of finding its potential savings through behavioural energy efficiency, according to Emily Hallet, associate director of Solutions Marketing in EMEA, Opower, who presented on a recent Engerati webcast, “Quantifying the potential of behavioural energy efficiency in Europe.”

More work to do

In 2007, The European Commission introduced the Energy Efficiency Directive which was designed to drive efficiency and meet long-term energy challenges, especially around carbon emissions and energy security. The European Commission set an ambitious energy savings target of 20% by 2020. However, the results have been less than impressive.

Despite strong efforts and energy obligations across the European states, there is definitely more work to do, explains Hallet. Firstly, they are falling short of the target. This is partially because energy policy and regulation is not rigorous enough. Another issue is that some countries are struggling to get consumers to participate in energy efficiency programmes. Even though many strategies are economically beneficial for the consumer, it still takes a lot to convince consumers to participate.

Tapping into the potential

Hallet points out that Europe has been a lot more aggressive on renewables development than on efficiency. Germany for instance is consuming the highest renewables but their tariffs are substantially higher than the rest of the world. But the good news is that this can change by adjusting residential consumption behavior. Research done by McKinsey and Company, shows that in the US, 20% of household energy use is wasted due to inefficient behavior, for example, leaving the heating on when it is not needed. This figure does not include energy efficient installations like insulation, for instance.

Says Hallet, “If we want to tap into this potential, we need to know how to get consumers to act. Historically this has always been very challenging.”

Hallet points to a home energy report, launched in 2007, which proved to be hugely successful in gaining participation. The report shows individuals’ consumption in comparison with other households’ consumption in the area. Consumers are also given targeted tips on how to save energy going forward. Progress is also tracked in this report.

Hallet says that a new software platform has been created to build on this home energy report. Now, multiple channels are used to communicate with utility customers to help them manage their consumption more effectively. According to Hallett, the impact to date has been impressive-the average state savings is 1.5-2.5%.

Giving consumers the power

The aim of behavioural energy efficiency programmes is to capture consumers’ attention and provide them with the information they need to manage their energy use properly. There are a number of benefits beyond pure energy efficiency:

1.Savings for fuel-poor customers

2. Peak load reduction-a powerful tool for demand challenges. Peak savings is 20-30% higher than the average.

3.Increased programme participation when actively promoted

4. Customer satisfaction-customers are given the tools to manage their consumption effectively. The behavioural energy efficiency programme helps improve the customer-utility relationship. This is mainly because customers believe that the utility wants to help them reduce their bill.

Potential savings in Europe

The momentum for behavioural energy efficiency is spreading, explains Hallett. Denmark and Ireland have adopted this as part of their energy efficiency strategy.

Opower has conducted a study to see how behavioural energy efficiency can help Europe meet its goals. The study is the first of its kind to calculate behavioral potential. The following was studied:

  • Technical potential-estimated  energy efficiency savings  without considering customer behavior
  • Economic potential-cost-effective sub-set  of technical potential
  • Achievable potential –reasonable savings within a given timeframe.

The study shows that behavioural efficiency can reach 149 million homes and 12TWh’s in annual energy (electric and natural gas) savings from residential homes can be saved due to behavioural energy efficiency programmes. In addition to this, 3.3 million tons in annual carbon emission reductions can be made and consumers can save 2,4 billion Euros annually. Hallet says that this is enough to power all the homes in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovenia, as well as the European Parliamentary Centres in Brussels and Strasbourg.

The report shows that behavioural potential has a higher success rate than standard efficiency programmes in Europe. The top areas in the region, with the biggest potential to save through  efficiency programmes are Germany, UK, France, Italy, Switzerland and Spain. Hallet points out that savings in the first three countries would be enough to power all households in Ireland. This is due to high energy costs largely because of renewables, high population and moderate usage.

The top five for household savings are Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. These countries have high energy consumption levels and tariffs. Through behavioural energy efficiency, each household has the potential to save 70 Euros annually.

Germany could save the most energy. Their annual energy savings would be 2.183GWhs and savings per household would be 70kWh. Almost 25% of electric consumption is from renewables. However, this comes at a cost to consumers. Consumers in Germany pay 6 Euro cents per kWh leading to some of the highest energy prices in the world. Hallet points out that if they were saving this energy through a behavioural energy efficiency programme, the country could save 25 Euro Cents per kWh.

The UK spends a tremendous amount in the current energy efficiency scheme. A large part of this is the Green Deal which provides subsidized loans for energy efficiency achievement. The country has spent 36 million Pounds to make this programme successful. A mere 2000 participants have been recruited.

Says Hallet, “This approach contrasts with behavioural energy efficiency which we run as an opt-out programme. OPower rather chooses participants instead of waiting for them to opt in. We can then quickly and reliably scale the impact of the programme. Behavioural efficiency programs have the ability to save the country 2.058GWhs. The savings potential per household is 94kWh.

France is working towards being less reliant on nuclear-from 75 % to less than 50% in 2025. As a result, the country may face stringent carbon and generation goals. Behavioural energy efficiency programmes can fill this generation and carbon mitigation gap, explains Hallet. The country can expect to make an annual savings of 1.946GWhs and each household will save 90kWh.

Behavioural energy efficiency is available and cost-effective

Hallet suggests the following:

1. Claim the achievable potential today-behavioural energy efficiency is available and cost-effective for over 149 million European households right now.

2. Include behavioural interventions in all energy efficiency frameworks-programme administrators should include behavioural interventions in all efficiency portfolios

3. Include behavioural interventions in all resource potential studies-focus resources on the programmes with highest potential. All Resource Potential Studies and portfolio planning exercises should survey behavioural interventions.

Currently, there are over 90 utilities, 42 million households and 9 countries involved in behavioural efficiency programmes.

This article was written by smart energy platform Engerati, the sister site to

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