Energy efficiency is not only the most cost-effective way to reduce CO2 emissions and, therefore, aspire to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and the goals set in Paris to stop global warming. It is also strategic to reduce the high dependence on the European Union , which each year spends more than 400,000 million to import energy to ensure supply.

Europe is not energy self-sufficient and we depend on places that suffer from the instability of the natural resource curse. If Europe wants to decide what it wants to be, it needs energy autonomy. This situation becomes more and more evident in each gas crisis”, the head of Climate Change and Sustainability at KPMG, Jose Luis Blasco.

The growth of the world population and the consequent increase in the individual and collective use of energy will mean, according to the International Energy Agency, doubling by 2030 the energy consumed in 2004. «Spain, with an external energy dependence of approximately 80%, Much higher than the European average of 50%, it will be more vulnerable to these cost factors, which will affect its competitiveness to a greater extent”, points out Jose Longas, president of the Excellence in Sustainability Club.

The challenge that Brussels has set itself on the 2020 horizon is to increase energy efficiency by 20%, “an objective that, for the moment, is not on track to be met”, according to various papers published by the EU, including the Directive itself. European Energy Efficiency. This document devotes special attention to the impact of buildings, which is quite reasonable if we take into account that the building stock “represents 40% of final energy consumption in the EU”. It does not seem that in Spain – where nine out of ten homes waste energy, according to a study by WWF and Fundación Reale – there is currently an action plan that allows us to achieve significant advances in energy efficiency. «Energy efficiency is something as relevant as good management of public resources. We have learned the importance of being demanding in the decisions of good management of public resources and we are with respect to the fiscal policy that generates income. And yet, we passively consent to the energy waste and poverty of public measures aimed at achieving greater energy efficiency”, says Teresa Ribera, former Secretary of State for Climate Change.

Ribera puts on the table a more striking fact: Spain is not capable of presenting projects that obtain the financing available at the European Investment Bank to facilitate large energy efficiency programs. “The waste is triple: of energy, of our own economic resources destined to import fuels and of resources available to co-finance programs to which we do not apply.” Paradoxically, laments Ribera, the adoption of policies to stimulate energy efficiency in our buildings would bring great advantages, both in the short term, by reducing the energy bill in homes and generating employment in the sectors hardest hit by the crisis (up to 130,000 new jobs according to the association Green Building Council Spain); as in the medium and long term, since it would mean a very significant net saving.

Let’s go to the economic data. If Spain were to do its homework on energy efficiency by 2020, “the reduction of primary energy would make it possible to achieve annual savings of about 25,000 million euros,” explains Fernando Ferrando, director of Endesa’s Energy Efficiency Unit. This saving would have a very strong positive impact in terms of the trade balance, which in 2012 alone presented a deficit of 45,503 million euros for energy products.

According to Ferrando, the necessary measures are based on the application of proven technologies such as the rehabilitation of the building envelope; the installation of air conditioning heat pumps with efficiencies that are three to four times greater than combustion boilers; the introduction of efficient lighting with low consumption fluorescent or LED technologies or the progressive implementation of electric mobility. Jose Luis Blasco, from KPMG, is optimistic regarding Spain’s compliance with the objectives set by the EU – “the plans of successive governments have resulted in a 2.75% annual decrease in primary energy consumed, which would place us close to the objective»– and claims energy efficiency as a fundamental factor of competitiveness: “It is key from the point of view of reducing our foreign dependence, which would protect our companies from the volatility of the fossil energy market.”

On the other hand, the data from the Industrial Survey of Companies show that energy consumption accounts for up to 15% and 20% of operating expenses in sectors such as textiles, paper or construction materials. “If we take into account that market costs have increased in the last ten years between 40% and 100%, reducing the energy intensity per product or service once again becomes a key competitiveness variable”, explains the manager of Climate Change of KPMG.

During 2016, the Ministry of Industry established the amount that companies had to contribute to the National Energy Efficiency Fund at 206 million euros, to achieve energy savings equivalent to 1.5% of their sales per year. But that is not enough, since companies must accompany it with internal initiatives, even if they are not obliged to do so. This is the case of Endesa (by the way, the second company that contributes the most to the aforementioned fund), which has integrated the concept of ‘car sharing’ (shared mobility) into its operation. Thus , through its agreement with Taksee, 91.4% of the races that have been booked through its platform, shared among employees. The eliminated races represent 6,760 kilometers of distance eliminated by car and 2,704 square meters of space occupied by the car, savings that is also a contribution to less traffic and congestion. 75% of its fleet is hybrid or electric in Madrid and Barcelona. In addition, the company itself has its service ofcar-sharing   at its six main company headquarters, with electric vehicles so that all employees can carry out their work procedures in urban environments in a sustainable and non-polluting way.

Currently, 52% of the world population is urban, a percentage that rises to 72% in the European Union and 82% in Latin America. The rural exodus that took place in Western countries in the 20th century has accelerated in the 21st century in emerging countries: every day more than 180,000 people move to a city to live. The figure is repeated in reports, symposiums and conferences, but it is nonetheless overwhelming: in 2050 the world population will rise to 9,000 million inhabitants. 70% will live in cities that, to date, have only occupied 2% of the earth’s surface.

“This means that we will have to supply growing energy needs in a very small territorial environment, with a high energy dependence on the outside and with the social demand for more sustainable energy behavior,” explains Ferrando, from Endesa. For this industrial engineer and economist with more than 30 years of experience in renewable energies behind him, “energy efficiency and the electrification of demand are the only policies that allow us to face this challenge, since electricity is the most efficient and respectful energy vector with the environment”.

From the Ecology and Development Foundation they maintain that “the depth of the transition that we must carry out towards a low carbon economy requires carrying out a true energy revolution, a radical transformation of our energy model“. “That requires regulatory changes, technological changes and cultural changes. It is very difficult for companies to move forward if public policy does not push in that direction”, says its director, Victor Vinuales.

The fall in public investment in R+D+i does not draw an encouraging landscape with regard to the role of administrations when it comes to promoting sustainable innovation in Spain. “An important part of our innovation system is being put at risk and the possibility of the Spanish economy and society building more solid and sustainable foundations,” warns Josep Comajuncosa, professor of Economics at the Esade business school.

Above all, there is a lack of an incentive policy that promotes the use of a more efficient and less polluting technology compared to the current reality based on fuels that we also do not have”, explains Endesa’s Director of Energy Efficiency when asked. We ask about the barriers that are hindering electric mobility. “The price has not yet matched that of conventional technologies and there is not a wide network of charging points either.”

In Spain in 2012 about 440 electric cars were registered; in 2013, the number reached around 800 and it is estimated that around 5,000 are currently in circulation. However, the price outlook is positive, as it mainly depends on the development of battery technology whose performance is continually improving. “Taking into account the technological development and price reduction of the electric vehicle, the European Commission estimates that in Spain there will be about 2.5 million electric vehicles in 2020,” added the manager.

To boost efficiency and reduce external dependency, it is necessary for renewables to gain more weight in our energy map. There are examples that powerfully attract attention, such as Germany, with less than half the hours of sunshine than Spain, invested in photovoltaic energy in 2012 more than Spain in its entire history. The German electrical system currently has 32,698 megawatts (MW), compared to the 4,516 MW installed in Spain, according to data from the Anpier producers’ association.

Even so, the Government has dealt a hard blow to the renewable energy sector with the royal decree that it approved on June 6 and with which it intends to reverse the controversial tariff deficit, which in 2013 exceeded 4,000 million euros. Minister Soria’s decree will result, this year alone, in a cut in incentives for renewables of 1,700 million euros, according to data handled by the National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC). From the sector they accuse Industry of breaking legal security and prepare the legal battle at a time when Spain is already facing six arbitrations at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) due to its changes in renewable energy matters. .

«In energy matters it is where this government is showing its face that is furthest from common sense. First, it dismantles renewable energies, and destroys any possibility of recovery in the sector, which was an engine in the generation of employment; for now to talk about the vulnerability of our country due to energy dependence from abroad”, says the founder of Equo, Juantxo Lopez de Uralde.

If there is something that the start of the 21st century is teaching us, it is that citizens have more power than they thought and, therefore, also more responsibility and capacity for transformation. This axiom is fully valid when faced with the challenge of energy efficiency. « In the new electricity tariffs, which allow the consumer to distribute daily consumption based on the hourly price of electricity, efficiency in consumption is encouraged and, therefore, it is the citizen himself who has the option of carrying out measures demand management”, explains Ferrando.

Likewise, the gradual introduction of renewable energy at the consumer’s home entails an inevitable decentralization in generation. “In this way, it goes from being a mere consumer to acting as an active agent, that is, as a consumer with the capacity to both consume and produce energy and interact with the electrical network,” he concludes.

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