I was reading this article recently which states that since 2006 energy use in Europe has dropped by 10%, and is now at 90s levels. On one hand this is great news but I can’t help but think that we haven’t tried particularly hard. I’ve seen with my own eyes how we have increased energy efficiency by 54% at Interface Europe since 1996, and I’m constantly amazed that we continue to find quick wins year on year.
Applying product standards is a quick way to save on energy. We could be much more stringent when applying standards across all energy using products from white goods, TVs, servers, cars, etc. We could also start touching on the potential of product design to save embedded carbon. Today there is carpet on the market with 20kgCO2/m2 and carpet for 3kgCO2/m2. Both pay the same tax. So no incentives to sell or buy the better products.
Another way of looking at increasing efficiency is the sector approach. We have come a long way with automotive but the revolution could go much further – Construction is almost a virgin territory. A strong minimum efficiency standard could be enacted Europe-wide measuring KwH/m2 of heating and cooling for new buildings. Embedded carbon could also be regulated because EPDs for all building materials are becoming available. Building renovation has great potential too – According to Renovate Europe, imported gas used by buildings could be reduced by 61% by 2030.
Public sector expenditure is another area for quick wins. For example, we could replace lighting in cities with the super efficient kind. Phillips just announced a program with the Madrid local council to change all city lighting, delivering a 44% energy saving.
Let’s also look at big industry. Today there are technologies that pay back relatively quickly. Here are some of the initiatives that we have applied at Interface: Insulation of hot equipment, air curtains for doors, password-locked thermostats, reuse of cold air and heat, storage space kept at 5C, switched to high efficiency boilers, spot heating instead of heating entire factory halls, installing valves that prevent heat escaping, installing Building Management Systems, reduced cooling to the bare minimum, switched to LEDs, reduced use of compressed air and fixed air leakages regularly. These simple technologies are already available and you could argue are not particularly radical, but our combined efforts certainly will be.