To pursue energy efficiency, the European Union has undertaken a series of policies; among these, the adoption of white certificates, which has brought particularly positive results in Italy, today among the countries with the best energy performance. It is therefore important to safeguard actions of this kind, which are useful to save energy at reduced costs. The clarity and simplicity of the procedures and the use of appropriate tools to monitor and verify energy consumption are fundamental to ensure correct functioning and increase in energy savings.
Energy saving: why is it important?
The term “energy saving” refers to various interventions aimed at reducing the consumption of energy necessary for the performance of daily activities and industrial production.
Energy can be saved through the modification of processes, so as to avoid waste, but also through the transformation of energy from one form to another more efficient (energy efficiency).
Achieving energy saving and energy efficiency is of primary importance to:
– lower the electric bill;
– reduce the negative impact of fossil fuels (which produce large quantities of greenhouse gases) on the climate and the environment
– increase national energy security. Each country needs continuity in energy supplies at sustainable prices. One of the main critical issues for the European Union is energy dependence, that is, the high use of energy supplies from outside the border (especially natural gas and oil).
Energy dependence also impacts a country’s competitiveness: for instance, the strong dependence on extra-EU imports makes Italy vulnerable to the risk of possible fuel price shocks, which affect electricity prices. In recent years, the incentive to resort to the production of energy from renewable sources and a fair diversification of the supplying countries have mitigated these problems. The challenge of a transition towards a new energy model, focused on efficiency, and towards a new industrial and technological paradigm of consumption and lifestyles will have to be faced globally in the coming decades.
The European strategy for energy efficiency
Energy efficiency policies play an important role in the European strategy. Among these are the so-called market instruments, the number of which has quadrupled in the last 15 years: 52 policies of this kind have been adopted in twelve European countries (Iea, 2017).
These market instruments have been designed on the model of the environmental ones, such as the European Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), the first and most extensive system for the exchange of CO2 emissions allowances in the EU.
At the base there is the idea of ??making companies pay the full social cost of energy, without any constraint on the method: this is to stimulate investments and ensure reduced costs for society.
The EU ETS system has proved effective: the emissions of the plants that have adopted this method have decreased as desired. An average saving of 1.3 euro / kWh has been calculated, below the market price (IEA 2017) and according to forecasts, in 2030 the emissions of the sectors governed by the system will be 43% lower.
Italy: among the best countries for energy performance
Italy is among the most efficient countries in Europe: the graph below shows that, from 2000 to 2015, it had an efficiency gain of about 15 percentage points. Industry, in particular, is the sector that has recorded the best results, even higher than in Europe.
Source: Odysee-Mure Database.
To influence these performances was certainly the adoption of particularly effective incentive tools, primarily the white certificates, established in Italy in 2006. Let’s see what we are talking about…
Incentives: white certificates, effective tools that must be safeguarded
White certificates or energy efficiency certificates (TEE) are negotiable securities that certify the achievement of savings in end-use of energy through actions to increase energy efficiency. Gas and electricity distributors must achieve increasing annual energy efficiency targets by taking advantage of the possibility of exchanging certificates.
A certificate is equivalent to saving one equivalent ton of oil (TEP). To date, this mechanism has generated about 27 million toe of energy savings (Enea – the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, 2019).
Although it has proven its effectiveness, the policy of white certificates is threatened by new stringent rules that have created an imbalance in the market: since 2017 there has been an increase in the prices of certificates and a collapse in the quantities traded. In order not to lose the efficiency of the white certificate system, which guarantees saving energy at reduced costs, it is therefore important to carefully evaluate the reforms to be implemented.
In addition to the white certificates, various energy efficiency incentive tools are available: among these, tax deductions for energy requalification interventions in buildings. Building, in fact, must meet the minimum energy efficiency requirements; the can can obtain important energy saving possibilities, for instance, from the use of heat pumps: they ensure heating, cooling, air recirculation, the production of domestic hot water, the use of solar energy and a reduction of the average annual consumption of primary energy also of 50% and an expense of 45% of indirect CO2 emissions.
The energy characteristics of buildings are reported in the energy performance certificates (APE) issued by energy certifiers. These certificates are fundamental tools for evaluating, even for commercial purposes, the quality of a property. Energy efficiency incentive tools also include the thermal account and the auction system, an alternative used in some countries, recently in Switzerland and Germany.
Monitoring and verification of energy consumption
Identifying the gaps from the point of view of efficiency and identifying what are the improvements to be made is the first step to achieve the energy saving objectives. this assessment can be made in energy audits, conducted by energy managers. Energy-intensive companies must carry out energy audits to improve their consumption by adopting ISO 50001 management systems.
In energy audits, specific tools are used to evaluate energy consumption in real time or at defined intervals: innovative systems to digitize public administration services and intelligent measurement solutions are increasingly used.
These systems allow the remote reading and remote management of electricity, gas and water meters.