As part of the LEAP4SME project, REVOLVE speaks 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.
What is the most important barrier to SMEs adopting energy audits and energy efficiency measures?
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.
What are the most important support mechanisms for SMEs in adopting energy audits and energy efficiency measures?
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.
What would your key message be to stakeholders/market players who are working with SMEs on energy efficiency?
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.
What is your view on how the LEAP4SME project can contribute to progress in the sector?
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.