Columnists: Katharina Wohlfarth, Fraunhofer ISI

Published on: 10 Feb 2020

Evidence links productivity, other company benefits to efficiency

Multiple Benefits survey reveals that companies perceive and realise many competitive benefits from energy efficiency measures.

Whenever we talk about energy efficiency, we discuss the great potential and how much more we could do. While the focus is primarily on energy efficiency gains, non-energy benefits can also be important arguments for companies to implement measures and close that energy efficiency gap.

In fact, some companies are already aware of multiple (non-energy) benefits. However, these benefits are not linked to competitive advantages nor do companies fully value or account for them. Often, the benefits are only communicated anecdotally and afterwards, but not included as a factor in decision-making.

In our study, we surveyed companies with the aim to systematically quantify the multiple benefits linked to energy efficiency measures and assess if there are typical benefits associated with these measures. We hope that these results support future decision-making on respective measures and provide companies with a basis to include such benefits in investment calculations.

To date over 100 companies have participated in the survey. Many of these companies are well-positioned to report on experiences with multiple benefits as they have an Energy Manager and were already engaged in energy efficiency measures. Of the companies surveyed: 90% implemented some kind of energy efficiency measure; over 80% conducted an energy audit, and over 50% of those implemented measures as a result of the audit. Of companies that implement measures, the energy saving potential is the most common decision-making criterion, followed by costs of measures, profitability and level of organisational effort.

What did we learn? Some of our key results to date include:

There are four categories of non-energy benefits commonly associated with efficiency measures. There are also clear linkages between types of measures and the accumulation of certain non-energy benefits.

The four major categories of multiple benefits associated with cross-cutting energy efficiency measures include:

  1. Improvements to working processes (e.g., increased productivity or product quality),
  2. Positive impacts on equipment operations (e.g., reduced maintenance costs or malfunctions),
  3. Benefits to employees and working conditions (e.g., improved safety, health or comfort), and
  4. Reductions in (material) use, waste and emissions.

Linking decision-making, multiple benefits and energy efficiency measures

The results also show that some measures e.g., related to lighting, heating and cooling seem to be associated with the most multiple benefits, and that certain multiple benefits are clearly associated with or related to certain measures.

For example, measures related to process heat and cooling often contribute to reduced emissions and reduced maintenance. Measures to reduce waste heat are highly associated with reduced production costs, while measures related to lighting often improve employee health and safety.

Companies also responded that multiple benefits could play a bigger role in decision-making, depending on the relevance of those benefits. Reduced operations and maintenance costs, reduced production costs and loses are rated highest as decision-making factors, followed by improved employee health and safety. Thus, measures related to those additional benefits might become more attractive.

Survey participants also cited that the relation of the measure to production processes, energy issues and regulatory certainty are important aspects to consider. Besides efficiency issues, some measures were also carried out because it led to certification of some kind (e.g., in the course of renovation or due to defects).

Companies that did not implement measures cited financial restrictions as the main reason. This focus on economic aspects – especially when the financial analysis considers only energy cost savings and short periods of examination – could be changed or viewed through a different lens by also considering multiple benefits when evaluating projects. Monetisation of process-related or other non-energy benefits can also increase their perceived relevance to the company and improve the financial attractiveness.

More than 100 companies participated in the survey so far, and forty of these companies stated their interest in also participating in a Multiple Benefits pilot project. They will receive trainings and tools to identify and include multiple benefits in a project proposal. The survey is still running so we encourage more companies to participate! Additional participation will allow us to grow the evidence base and further refine the results to inform the relationship between accrued multiple benefits and energy efficiency measures. We also hope to learn more about companies’ decision-making routines, priorities, and what is needed to help energy managers improve the relevance of energy efficiency measures by identifying and showing all of the benefits.

The survey is available in 8 languages (English, German, Italian, Greek, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish). If you are part of a company and you are interested to participate, the English version can be accessed here:

The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Katharina Wohlfarth