The case, when broken down, was a simple one: the multiple benefits of giving energy efficiency the same status as other key infrastructure, and investing accordingly, far outweigh the costs.
It’s a suggestion that has remained in the realm of debate since then, and with a consultation on the government’s new Industrial Strategy having just closed, it’s good to see it gaining some timely high profile support.
The Royal Academy of Engineering has thrown its weight behind the idea in its response to the strategy’s Green Paper. There are some salient points made.
It calls for energy efficiency to be viewed as a matter of interest right across government to avoid a bit-part approach, and perhaps even more importantly, a stable medium to long-term plan to build necessary market confidence, in line with the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions.
This is in recognition of the fact that improving energy efficiency “[…] benefits the user by reducing their costs and it benefits the system by reducing the amount of generation required.” We would also add that improving energy efficiency creates warmer, healthier and more comfortable homes, as well as delivering important economic benefits.
So, all in all, it makes a lot of sense to prioritise energy efficiency.
The response also backs the idea of an Energy Saving Incentive scheme – where there is financial reward for making efforts to reduce energy use. This is along the lines of an energy efficiency version of the Feed-in Tariff (FiTs) for energy generated by renewable technologies. Despite some complications in constructing such a scheme, it’s certainly worth exploring.
The paper talks about proposals that Energy Saving Trust has long been advocating, such as stamp duty changes and tightening building regulations for new buildings.
Better incentives for heating efficiency and support for new green products and renewable generation in the UK are also among key the calls laid out.
Of course, engineers have other energy priorities too and they are reflected in the response – but the fact that energy efficiency is the headline is a very promising sight indeed. The Academy’s position on energy efficiency is one that looks right across the board to business as well as homes, but there are key mentions for personal and community energy use.
Making energy efficiency an industrial priority is already supported by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and key UK cities, while considering energy in this way is consistent with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and International Energy Agency (IEA). But the engineering industry is undoubtedly another good ally to have when you’re looking for consideration as part of a national industrial strategy.
Hopefully it marks a move from energy efficiency being considered a niche concern to a central tenet of economic and social planning.