Taking the necessary action to avoid a crisis

People only accept change when they are faced with necessity,

and only recognise necessity when a crisis is upon them.

Jean Monnet

French political economist and diplomat

who was one of the founding fathers of the European Union


The recent special report from the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that the impact of global climate change is more severe than we have been willing to admit. For many of us, we knew this crunch day would come because the evidence has been stacking up for years. This summer was a good example that raised the concerns in all of us.

Let us take stock and start taking the necessary steps forward.

Avoiding a crisis

I worked in the energy efficiency group at the International Energy Agency in the early 1980s.  It was in the directorate for long-term co-operation.  Energy efficiency was promoted as a long-term approach for improved energy security in order to avoid crises.  Remember we had gone through two oil crises in the 1970s, at great cost to our economies.

To be truthful, it was hard to convince governments and individuals to take actions to improve energy efficiency because of a possible energy security crisis some time in the future.  So improving energy efficiency then was given a relatively low political priority.

Then in the early 1990s, the first serious discussions on climate change were taking place amongst governments and energy efficiency was seen as a useful tool to address the growing concerns.  In fact, Denmark and the Netherlands were really amongst the first countries to re-direct their energy efficiency strategies towards addressing climate change.  Yet, there is the same concern as after the oil crises.  The adverse effects of climate change seemed so far in the future.

We are not saying that now.

Take a deep breath

Following the publication of the IPCC report on October 8th, it has been interesting to see how it has been handled in the media.  Everyone has been running around trying to figure out what we can do – now.  Yes, we can’t complain that we should have done more yesterday.

But we do have to take a deep breath and think thoughtfully of our next steps.  We also need to think about what is available to help us now.

Some lessons we’ve learned

We have gained a lot of experience in policy development and programme delivery since those first steps after the oil crises of the 1970s. We are now in much better shape to take effective action – if there is the will and commitment to do so.

Let’s just list a few of those lessons learned:

  • There are many more technologies available to help you reduce your energy consumption in all sectors and their costs are coming down. Also, there are many new innovations coming forward all the time.
  • There are now more services to help you with your energy management in your home or business. The growth of energy service companies has helped. More engineering companies are offering related services and audits are more readily available.
  • Energy agencies at the national, regional and local levels are providing more and more services to help consumers in all sectors. If they don’t provide funding for projects, they often know where to go for it. Check out agencies near you [add linkhttp://enr-network.org/]
  • There are several initiatives underway to help finance energy efficiency measures. These include efforts to “de-risk” energy efficiency projects in order to give more confidence to investors and consumers alike.
  • There are efforts to improve the regulatory framework to support efforts in energy efficiency.

It is on these last two points that I would like to say a bit more.

Financing energy efficiency

While energy efficiency measures to implement are identified, financing them is not always so simple. Yes, there are some low-cost/no-cost measures you can do but they are not sufficient for meeting our long-term goals – and your own business needs.

Interestingly, the European Commission together with UN Environment Programme Financial Initiative (UNEP FI) has brought many financial institutions together with other relevant stakeholders to discuss how financing energy efficiency measures can be improved. There were many recommendations from better policies, better transparency of data and information, and improved capacity in financial institutions.  The Energy Efficiency Financial Institutions Group (EEFIG) developed two tools that are a start.

First, there is an Underwriting Toolkit designed to assist financial institutions to scale up their deployment of capital into energy efficiency.  This is to help those financial institutions understand, analyse and finance energy efficiency projects.

Second, there is the De-Risking Energy Efficiency Platform (DEEP), an open-source initiative to up-scale energy efficiency investments in Europe through the improved sharing and transparent analysis of existing projects in Buildings and Industry. There are now more than 10,000 projects in that database.  It is expecting to be expanding to even more projects.

There are other initiatives such as the Investor Confidence Project (ICP), funded by the European Union, that attemps to unlock access to financing for the building, industry, district energy and street lighting markets by standardising how energy efficiency projects are developed, documented and measured. There are other EU funded projects that also try to accelerate financing for energy efficiency measures. Most notable are eQuad and TrustEE.

Ensuring the regulatory framework is appropriate and robust

The European Committee for Standardization, CEN/CENELEC, is increasingly active to support energy efficiency. In energy efficiency and energy management, there are standards for appliances (Ecodesign), energy labelling, energy management (including energy audits), smart grids and smart meters. There is quite a range of standards related to improving the energy performance of buildings. They are exploring how standards can be used for financing, showing interest in such projects as ICP mentioned above.

CEN/CENELEC has recently started work to see how standards can be more appropriate to encourage more energy efficiency measures for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).


The examples shown above are there to show you are not alone. There are many efforts underway to ensure that our economies and our consumers (yes, you) are better prepared for the future and are contributing towards a more sustainable environment.  Remember, energy efficiency is there to help you. It is a means to an end and not an end in itself. It is a policy tool to help solve your problems.

We know what to do.  We have had decades of experience although we need to do more to roll out more quickly at a national scale. Yes, we will always be developing new technologies, new techniques and new policies. Yes, and we will always be trying to find both traditional and innovative ways to do the necessary financing.

So, we are in a better position than even a few years ago to really ramp up our efforts.

And, finally, tomorrow is today. Let’s prove that Europeans do not need a “crisis” to recognise necessity and take action.



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