Energy efficiency is a form of energy

Whilst this government is pushing the interests of its big business cronies in the wind industry, it is doing precious little when it comes to consumer education and other measures aimed at energy efficiency. Instead of forcing consumers to pay millions in subsidies to the wind industry, why not use those subsidies to help homeowners make their homes more energy efficient and also launch energy efficiency education initiatives (especially at schools)? Perhaps it has something to do with profits and kickbacks?

It is interesting to note that in all the Green Paper seminars, a dominant theme raised by the people attending was the urgent need to retrofit houses. Coupled with this was a widespread recognition for the need to educate the average citizen on how to use less electricity. Education was also needed to encourage the consumer to allow people into his or her home to install the necessary modifications. The DCENR should make these twin objectives of education and retrofitting their priority, rather than spending billions on Grid 25 and wind subsidies.

I defer to somebody far more knowledgeable than I am on the subject:

Behavioural energy efficiency programmes could help European consumers save 12 billion kilowatt-hours of energy and €2.4 billion, writes Alex Laskey.

Alex laskeyAlex Laskey is co-founder and president of Opower, a company that provides cloud-based software to the utility industry.

“Just a few weeks ago, the European Union’s Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action, Miguel Arias Cañete, made an impassioned appeal for energy efficiency. “Moderation of demand and energy efficiency are, to my mind, the areas that merit our greatest determination,” he said. ‘Energy we do not use is the cheapest, most sustainable, and most secure energy we have. Our energy policy should take ‘efficiency first’ as its abiding motto.’

“He’s right. Electric utilities can meet demand in one of two ways: by supplying power, or by helping consumers use less of it. But these aren’t equal options. Saving a kilowatt-hour through an energy efficiency programme costs less than half than generating a kilowatt-hour at a power plant. Saved power is plentiful, renewable, and domestic. Best of all, it produces zero carbon emissions.

“That’s why the European Union is pushing hard to cut its energy consumption 20% by 2020, and 27% by 2030. These are good targets — but the EU isn’t on track to meet them.

“It isn’t for lack of commitment. Appliance standards, building codes, and green labeling have helped the EU curb its energy demand and grow its energy economy. But by focusing on retrofits and refrigerators, European policymakers are missing what might be the biggest efficiency opportunity of all; Europeans themselves.

“McKinsey & Company estimates that 20% of all residential electricity is put toward no useful purpose. We waste it. We leave the lights on in empty rooms and our heating on when nobody’s home. And to date, most member states have looked past the problem. But the good news is, a solution exists, discovered more than a decade ago by two behavioural scientists in California.

“In the heat of summer, Drs Robert Cialdini and Wesley Schultz distributed door hangers with three different messages encouraging people to turn off their air conditioners and save energy. Some homes received an environmental message. Some received an economic message about cash savings. Others saw a message encouraging them to be good citizens and help prevent blackouts.

“None of those messages made an impact. But a fourth message did. When Cialdini and Schultz told people that 77% of their neighbours were turning off their air conditioners, and they should too, the response was immediate and significant. People snapped to attention and started using less energy.

“Behavioural scientists call the phenomenon normative comparison. It’s the sort of nudge that policymakers have deployed to drive valuable social outcomes, from voter turnout to tax compliance. Applied to energy, it’s a proven way to motivate homes and businesses to consume less.

“And you don’t need doorhangers. The continent is already awash in an ocean of new energy data — a wealth of information that will only grow as smart meter deployments sweep across Europe. Technology exists to capture all of that information, analyse it, and generate deeply personalised insights for millions of Europeans. Advances in software have unlocked an opportunity to run Cialdini and Schultz’s study on a global scale.

“The size of the opportunity is even greater in the EU. Every year, behavioural energy efficiency programmes could help European consumers save 12 billion kilowatt-hours of energy, avert 3.3 million tonnes of carbon pollution, and keep €2.4 billion in their pockets. Germany alone could cut demand by 2.2 billion kilowatt-hours. The United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Spain could make comparable gains.

“Yet of these member states, just Italy has written behavioural efficiency into its Energy Efficiency Obligation. It followed Denmark and Ireland in doing so. The vast majority of the EU is still waiting.

“For a clean, affordable, abundant energy future, Commissioner Arias Cañete’s promise of “efficiency first” is the right one to make. But that mantra can’t apply to buildings and hardware alone. It must extend to Europe’s citizens. Like millions of people in China, Japan, and the United States, Europeans deserve the opportunity to take control of their energy use.

“Europe’s policymakers can give them the tools they need. With climate change accelerating and efficiency targets going unmet, there’s simply no more time or energy to waste.”


Well said Alex.

It is interesting to note that the government of Ireland has written energy efficiency into their ‘plan’. Now they just need to put their money where their mouth is, rather than shoving it into the wind farm owners’ pockets.


About Neil van Dokkum

Neil van Dokkum (B. SocSc; LLB; LLM; PGC Con.Lit) Neil is a law lecturer and has been so since arriving in Ireland from South Africa in 2002. Prior to that Neil worked in a leading firm of solicitors from 1987-1992, before being admitted as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa (a barrister) in 1992. He published three books in South Africa on employment law and unfair dismissal, as well as being published in numerous national and international peer-reviewed journals. Neil currently specialises in employment law, medical negligence law, family law and child protection law. He dabbles in EU law (procurement and energy). Neil retired from full-time practice in 2002 to take up a lecturing post. He has published three books since then, “Nursing Law for Irish Students (2005); “Evidence” (2007); and “Nursing Law for Students in Ireland” (2011). His current interest is the area of disability as a politico-economic construct. Neil is very happily married to Fiona, and they have two sons, Rory and Ian.
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1 Response to Energy efficiency is a form of energy

  1. Percentage targets are meaningless – what is required is an energy consumption target.
    This is the basic mantra of the Passive House design methodology. It specifies that a dwellings heating demand of no more than 15kwh/annum/sqM.
    Where this conflicts with current government policy is that Part L TGD specifies each new dwelling must deliver 10kwh/m2/annum “renewable energy” as part of its design criteria.
    Now where this is a nonsense – as in my case – is as the energy demand of a dwelling drops the 10kwh/m2/annum becomes a much larger percentage of the overall energy consumption figure which makes it a really challenge to achieve. Obviously the highest demand is on cold, damp, dark winters nights when such things as PV or Solar Thermal are of little use.
    So how do you fix this – heat pumps can help – they are classed as renewable as they deliver 3 to 4 times output to input (e.g. mine is 420% efficient with 1Kwh of electrical energy input delivering 4.2Kwh output.) but with a low demand dwelling this makes little odds – my heating bill is around €180/annum
    I “strapped” on 4Kwh of PV “eco bling” to achieve the required target and use the Grid as a “battery” but as we know if everyone did this we would have massive over supply during the day and zero at night. (or when there is an eclipse!)

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