Columnists: Hans Nilsson, Fourfact

Published on: 2 Nov 2021

It is the cost not the price, stupid!

The debate over the energy price is somewhat astonishing and even more so the “reflex” from some governments to subsidise the energy since huge consumer groups suffer from the spike in prices. Governments don’t get much help from “experts” in media who explain that the high prices can only be remedied by changing over to different companies, different sources or by simply waiting.

Has anyone heard about energy efficiency? Does anyone try to make the calculation “price multiplied by volume equals cost”? And reflected over the fact that it is the cost that makes consumers suffer?

In a recent television programme in my country (Sweden) they gathered “experts” from a bank, a supplier of energy and a think-tank and it took them considerable time to arrive at the obvious solution – improved energy efficiency – but they were unanimous in their conclusion that energy efficiency did not work in the short run, in a so-called “crisis”.

Arguably, long-term and coherent efforts and policies for energy efficiency such as ecodesign regulations or measures that require substantial investments (building envelopes and industrial equipment) will deliver more than short term measures. But to say that short term actions don’t work is foolish and defeatist.

Let me at least offer one suggestion: switch off lights in rooms that are not occupied. And maybe another: check “stand-by operations” for electric motors and pumps. You will be surprised in how much you could save even in the short run! The IEA published a report in 2005, Saving electricity in a hurry. This gives more food for thought, and action. 

It is amazing to see that so little has been learnt since the IEA World Energy Outlook in 2012 (ten years ago) where it was shown that the demand for energy could be roughly reduced by 50 % with a profit for industry and individuals. Doing so would require some effort and close analysis of the premises and quite some thinking about how systems work. It is certainly tedious to do so but profitable both for the economy and the environment – and, yes, you the consumer.

That is also why we sometimes say that “energy efficiency is not difficult, only complicated”, meaning that the technologies are quite easy but putting them in the right place may require some specialist thinking. People have been too much given the idea that there should be a quick fix for everything and that somebody else should fix it for me.

This whole approach shows that we cannot simply wait for a crisis to undertake energy efficiency. As scouts would say, “Be Prepared!”.

I am reminded of when Jimmy Carter was president in the US, he gave a speech to the Americans and was dressed in a large sweater to give an impression that common behaviour was important. He was scorned for this but stood his ground that this was the right way forward. Maybe some prime ministers in Europe should take the risk to switch of some light in prime time TV and talk about multiplication? That could be good start on a journey where the end would be approved also by Greta and her friends. Not to mention the eceee!

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 Hans Nilsson