Offices and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have large potentials for energy saving. Non-residential buildings are constructed for shorter lifetimes than residential ones, and this is often reflected in lower building quality and energy standards. For example, the Carbon Trust has estimated that there is an economic energy efficiency potential of 30% in SMEs, and some best practice businesses have achieved savings of up to 50%. However, few SMEs take even simple measures to save energy. This is due to a number of challenges:
- There is a lack of knowledge about energy saving and related cost saving potentials.
- Energy costs are often taken as given, and as opposed to labour and supply costs, not taken as ‘changeable’ in financial planning.
- In case of rental agreements, building owners and companies renting the building have divergent interests: The building owner needs to make the investments, but tenants benefit from costs savings due to decreased energy demand.
- Small companies usually base their economic assessment on short payback periods (e.g. 2-3 years), thus they do not estimate energy efficiency investments as being profitable when they pay back over a longer time.
- There may be a lack of time, human resources and technical expertise to identify energy savings potentials and solutions. At the same time, external consultants are not always welcome.
- Managers may feel suspicious of new energy efficiency technologies and want to avoid unexpected risks because they lack proper measures and examples to evaluate the risks of such investments.
In order to address these challenges, energy change projects can:
- Create commitment among staff and management to work on energy efficiency in the work environment.
- Raise awareness among building users for co-benefits of building renovation, e.g. increased comfort, green image. (Find out what is valued most.)
- Try to provide individual, tailored energy advice/audits, or in case of larger-scale projects, identify groups of offices/SMEs that face similar problems and can benefit from similar solutions.
- Provide support in monitoring and evaluating current energy use.
- Overcome insecturity by real-life examples and clear, concrete and convincing proposals for action.
- Try to tailor your project to the ‘working cultures’ you encounter, e.g. top-down and bottom-up change processes.
- Provide support for building owners and users to find a mutually acceptable way to share cost and benefits.