LEAP4SME spoke with energy efficiency leaders across Europe to learn more about what can be done to help small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) become more energy efficient.
Ilaria Bertini, Director of the Energy Efficiency Department at the Italian National Energy Agency (ENEA), gives her insights into the work being done on both the Italian and European level.
We have identified two main barriers, a knowledge barrier and an economic barrier. SMEs commonly lack in capacity, time and resources to work systematically with energy efficiency. They may need support to raise awareness about energy, find a qualified expert to support them in carrying out an energy audit and applying for audit financial incentives, and to implement the result of the audit itself. Support is also needed in implementing energy-efficient solutions including how to finance them. These difficulties constitute together a significant barrier to implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. Therefore, there is still a large potential for cost-effective efficiency improvements in SMEs.
There is also an economic barrier to be considered, because often SMEs find it difficult to access incentive mechanisms and to therefore then invest in energy efficiency.
There are several policy instruments and measures to implement energy savings and/or efficiency in SMEs: White Certificates Mechanism, Thermal Account 2.0, National Energy Efficiency Fund (to finance interventions), and the Industry 4.0 Plan. The most important support we can offer to enterprises will probably be to correctly guide enterprises and professionals how to access the available funds. In industry, according to the Italian NECP (National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan) the savings target for 2030 is 1 Mtoe for the industrial sector (that is the difference between the estimates of industrial final energy consumption in the reference scenario and in the policy scenario). The development described in the Italian NECP – which was reviewed at the end of April 2021 – shows that the final energy savings from new measures promoted with the White Certificates scheme could reach 1.3 Mtep in 2030.
The key message is to underline the importance of carrying out a quality energy audit to obtain significant savings in energy efficiency in SMEs both in the industrial and tertiary sectors. In Italy a new operational plan (2021-2030) has been developed to encourage SMEs to carry out energy audits in their production sites. The plan includes training activities, extensive collaboration with business associations to develop sectoral guidelines and tools for a first self-assessment of energy consumptions. We strongly encourage market stakeholders and local authorities to get involved in these initiatives and be in touch to overcome together the barriers to energy efficiency in enterprises.
LEAP4SME can truly represent a turning point for the development of energy efficiency policies and practices in SMEs. Mapping the characteristics of the various SMEs, sharing best practices at the European level, and comparing the various support mechanisms, allows the various Member States to have a broader and more precise global vision on the European (and national) context of SMEs, enabling them to identify the correct methodologies and solutions to increase energy efficiency. The first technical project outcomes are already being used as a reliable knowledge base for ENEA’s activities in Article. 8 policy implementation.
Ilaria Bertini has headed the Italian National Energy Efficiency Agency and ENEA’s Energy Efficiency Department since 2018, where she previously acted as deputy director and head of the Energy Efficiency Analysis & Evaluation Unit. Ms. Bertini has had a long career in research in the development of technical-economical optimisation models for the analysis of energy scenarios both at the national and district scale. She holds a MSc in Electronic Engineering from the University of Rome.